Thursday, May 24, 2007

NY Times: New York’s Schools for Pregnant Girls Will Close

Julie Bosman reports in today's New York Times:

...Created in the 1960s, when pregnant girls were such pariahs that they were forced to leave school until their babies were born, the city school system’s four pregnancy schools — or P-schools, as they are obliquely referred to — have lived on, their population dwindling to just 323 students from 1,500 in the late 1960s.

They have been marked by abysmal test scores, poor attendance and inadequate facilities, and even some of their own administrators say they suspect that most of their students are pushed there by other schools because they are failing academically. In place of proms and computer labs, they have Mother’s Day parties and day care centers with cribs lining the walls.

Now in recognition of their failure, the city plans to shut them down at the end of the school year as part of a sweeping reorganization to be announced today of the alternative school district, which also includes an array of vocational, technical and dropout programs for students who have struggled in traditional settings.

May 24, 2007 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Gallup's Annual Values and Belief Survey: Results on Abortion

Gallup's annual Values and Belief survey, conducted May 10-13, 2007, yielded unsurprising results about the public's general position on the legality of abortion.  From Public Divided on "Pro-Choice" vs. "Pro-Life" Abortion Labels, by Lydia Saad (Gallup News Service):

Gallup's root question measuring these abortion attitudes simply asks, "Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?" The trend, which dates from 1975, shows a majority of Americans have consistently fallen into the middle group.

This year was no exception.  Americans also "generally agree that Roe should remain the law of the land on abortion. Only 35% of Americans say they would like to see the Supreme Court overturn this decision; a slight majority, 53%, say they would not like to see it overturned."

What really makes me see red, however, is this question (also asked in October of 2003):

Now I would like to ask your opinion about a specific abortion procedure known as "late-term" abortion or "partial-birth" abortion, which is sometimes performed on women during the last few months of pregnancy.  Do you think this procedure should be legal or illegal?

Given the wording of that question, it's no shock that 72% of respondents in 2007 thought it should be illegal.  This question neatly embodies persistent misperceptions about the ban, misimpressions that make it impossible to know what a fully informed public would really think. 

For example -- thanks in no small part to the pro-choice movement's early floundering on the issue -- the question tries to be neutral by offering the alternative label "late-term" abortion.  However, the so-called "partial-birth abortion" bans (including the federal ban) are not limited to the latter stages of pregnancy, and the procedures they prohibit are performed throughout the second trimester.

This question thus buys into the bait-and-switch tactic of the bans' proponents, where the public rhetoric is all about babies "inches from taking their first breath," while the legislation specifies no particular stage of pregnancy. 

The question is also misleading because abortions performed in the "last few months of pregnancy," under any technique, are exceedingly rare.  Most states ban all abortions after viability except where the woman may die or where her health is in danger.  Roe v. Wade permits this.  By focusing on the "last few months of pregnancy," the question is likely to elicit the public's well-known objection to post-viability abortions rather than zeroing in on any informed opposition to intact D&E or any other actual procedure.

And finally, because the bans are so vaguely worded, the question's suggestion that "partial-birth abortion" is about a "specific" procedure is highly misleading and buys into the anti-choice other bait-and-switch tactic, in which the rhetoric is about a specific procedure, while the legislation remains intentionally vague and broad.

May 24, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Final Actions Taken on Abortion Bills in KS, OK, and GA

Via Ms. Magazine:

Bills regulating abortion reached their end stages in three states this past week.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) vetoed on Monday a measure that would have required doctors to submit information about abortion patients to the state. Late-term abortions are only legal under Kansas law to save the life of a woman or when her health is severely threatened. Some lawmakers want doctors to explain why they perform each late-term procedure, information that would be included in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's annual report. ...

In Oklahoma, Governor Brad Henry (D) allowed a bill to become law yesterday that will limit the abortions that can be performed in public facilities. The law allows abortions to be performed with state money only in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman's health is endangered. It does not permit abortions in cases when the fetus is viable. ... Henry vetoed a similar but more stringent measure last month.

Finally, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (R) yesterday signed the Full Disclosure Ultrasound Act, mandating that all abortion providers offer their patients ultrasounds before performing abortion procedures. Anti-abortion advocates are promoting such bills in many states in hopes that a woman will decide not to have an abortion after viewing the ultrasound. ...

May 24, 2007 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abortion Foes Criticize One of Their Own

Eric W. Bolin reports for the Associated Press:

Anti-abortion leaders are accusing one of their own, Focus on Family founder James Dobson, of misrepresenting a Supreme Court decision that upheld a ban on late-term abortions.

In a full-page ad in Wednesday's editions of The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, the heads of four anti-abortion groups said Dobson wrongly characterized the court's April ruling as a victory for abortion foes. ...

The letter was signed by Brian Rohrbough, president of Colorado Right to Life; the Rev. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International; Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America; Judie Brown, president of American Life League; and Bob Enyart, pastor of Denver Bible Church.

If one views a fetus as a person, then the advocates who signed the letter appear to take the position most consistent with that approach since, as they point out, according to the Supreme Court itself the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart will not save a single fetus. 

But why didn't the public hear this debate over the last fifteen years as anti-choice groups crusaded against so-called "partial-birth abortion?" Not only did other prominent, ardently anti-choice groups, as well as politicians, praise the Supreme Court's decision, but anti-choice advocates are in fact responsible for it.  The National Right to Life Committee invented the misleading name and vague definition of a "partial-birth abortion" and then led a highly sophisticated and well-coordinated national campaign against its straw-procedure.  (See the NRLC's press release praising the Court's decision, in which NRLC takes credit for the campaign.)  Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue (a group that co-signed the letter), certainly recognized the rhetorical value of the "partial-birth abortion" bans. See this post for more on the history of the "partial-birth abortion" campaign.

May 24, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Gonzales v. Carhart | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Linda McClain on The Channelling Function of Family Law

Ftfac_mcclain Linda C. McClain (Hofstra) has posted Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage: Revisiting the Channelling Function of Family Law on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This Article revisits a significant idea at the core of contemporary debates in family law: the channelling function of family law. This idea is that a basic purpose of family law is to support fundamental social institutions, like marriage and parenthood, and to steer people into participating in them. Family law scholar Carl Schneider helpfully invited attention to this familiar idea in an essay published fifteen years ago. Challenges to the conventional sequence (expressed in the childhood rhyme) of love-marriage-baby carriage posed by changing social practices, rights claims made by various groups within society that lead to legislative change and judicial rulings, by technological developments in the area of reproduction, and by changes in family law toward a more functional definition of family changes provide a valuable opportunity to revisit Schneider's notion of the channelling function of family law and, in particular, how it relates to other important functions of family law. As this sequence of love-marriage-baby carriage is being altered and challenged in perhaps unprecedented ways, the question arises whether the core of ideas that Schneider identifies with the social institutions of marriage and parenthood still retains force, or whether the core is being redefined. At the heart of many contemporary debates about the state of the family — and family law — is the question of how to assess challenges to this expected sequence of love, marriage, and the baby carriage. The debate over same-sex marriage visibly raises this issue, as does debate over the question, Who is a legal parent?

Continue reading

May 23, 2007 in Miscellaneous, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wash. Post on Selective Reduction

From Too Much to Carry?, by Liza Mundy (5/20)

...Selective reduction is one of the most unpleasant facts of fertility medicine, which has helped hundreds of thousands of couples have children but has also produced a sharp rise in high-risk multiple pregnancies. There is no way to know how many pregnancies achieved by fertility treatment start out as triplets or quadruplets and are quietly reduced to something more manageable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes an annual report on fertility clinic outcomes, does not include selective-reduction figures because of the reluctance to report them.

The industry doesn't publish them, either. "This is a very sensitive topic," says David Grainger, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the membership group for IVF clinics. It's sensitive, personally, for patients, but also politically, for doctors.

May 23, 2007 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times: "Hague Court Inquiry Focuses on Rapes"

Lydia Polgreen and Marlise Simons report in today's New York Times:

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague said Tuesday that he would investigate human rights violations committed during a brutal crackdown after a coup attempt in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

The investigation by the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, will focus on at least 600 rapes, along with killings, beatings and other abuses reported during a five-month period after an unsuccessful revolt against the government of then-president Ange-Félix Patassé. The coup attempt was led by François Boizize, a general who ultimately seized power in 2003 and remains president.

The investigation is unique in that it focuses primarily on rape rather than on killings. Sexual violence has been a prominent feature of many conflicts in Africa in the past 15 years, and countless thousands of women have been raped in conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda, among other countries, but prosecutions for such crimes, except in Rwanda, have been rare.

“Rape is the most notorious issue here,” said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo in a telephone interview. “There are killings, but there are four times more rapes than killings. We are talking about mass rapes, gang rapes, hundreds of cases that took place within a few days.”

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wash. Post: "Birth-Control Tactics Spark Riots in China"

In today's Washington Post, Edward Cody reports:

One-Child Policy Locally Enforced With Brutal Drive to Collect Fines

Word came down from the central government in Beijing that it was time to strengthen enforcement of China's one-child policy.

In response, people here said, birth-control bureaucrats showed up in a half-dozen towns with sledgehammers and threatened to knock holes in the homes of people who had failed to pay fines imposed for having more than one child. Other family planning officials, backed by hired toughs, pushed their way into businesses owned by parents of more than one child and confiscated everything from sacks of rice to color televisions, they said.

The brutal fine-collection drive was launched last week around Bobai, 110 miles southeast of Nanning in southern China's Guangxi province. ...

...But the farmers of Bobai and nearby towns have been known since the Qing Dynasty for resistance to highhanded rulers. True to their legacy, they rose up against the collection teams, whom they decried as bandits. Backed by their sons, thousands of peasants and townspeople encircled government and birth-control centers across surrounding Bobai County, residents here said, stoning riot police brought in to quell the unrest and, in some places, trashing local offices.

See also this related post: Officials in China's Guangxi Region Carry Out Mass Forced Abortions.

May 22, 2007 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times: "Abortion Foes See Validation for New Tactic"

Robin Toner reports in yesterday's New York Times:

For many years, the political struggle over abortion was often framed as a starkly binary choice: the interest of the woman, advocated by supporters of abortion rights, versus the interest of the fetus, advocated by opponents of abortion.

But last month’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act marked a milestone for a different argument advanced by anti-abortion leaders, one they are increasingly making in state legislatures around the country. They say that abortion, as a rule, is not in the best interest of the woman; that women are often misled or ill-informed about its risks to their own physical or emotional health; and that the interests of the pregnant woman and the fetus are, in fact, the same.

The majority opinion in the court’s 5-to-4 decision explicitly acknowledged this argument, galvanizing anti-abortion forces and setting the stage for an intensifying battle over new abortion restrictions in the states.

The campaign to convince the public that abortion is harmful to women's physical and emotional health is based on misinformation and discredited studies.  See these related posts: Gonzales v. Carhart: An Alarming Nod to "Woman-Protective" Anti-Choice Advocates and Respect Women's Rights: Don't Let Them Choose Abortion!

May 22, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Frances Kissling: What does a girl have to do to get excommunicated?

In, Frances Kissling writes, "Catholic officials keep threatening to excommunicate pro-choice politicians and activists like me. I think they're bluffing, and canon law is on my side."  From her opinion piece:

Every so often some Roman Catholic hierarch gets a bee in his beanie and makes noises about excommunicating some pro-choice policy maker. Ultra-orthodox Catholics are ecstatic, and even mainstream newspapers turn into tabloids rushing to report the imminence of something that never happens. I pay attention to this stuff. Right-wing Catholics have been pleading with the Vatican to excommunicate me along with Mario Cuomo, Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy and Ellie Smeal for about 20 years. They frequently announce that I have excommunicated myself because of my pro-choice views, but as is true for 99.9 percent of pro-choice Catholics, no one who could actually excommunicate me has ever done so.

In response to Church leaders' suggestions that pro-choice legislators and activists have excommunicated themselves by virtue of their support of abortion rights, Kissling responds:

In reality, it is quite difficult to excommunicate yourself, even if you do have an abortion. Only seven acts merit automatic excommunication, and only three of those acts can be committed by laypeople. One of them is to attempt to assassinate the pope, another is profaning the Host (the Communion wafer), and the last is to successfully perform or have an abortion. No attempted or actual "murder" other than abortion subjects you to the ultimate penalty of automatic excommunication -- you can massacre thousands of civilians in war and, while you will surely have sinned, you are not automatically excommunicated.

She goes on to explain that automatic excommunication for having an abortion is subject to exceptions that would exonerate many if not most women who have had abortions.

Read more about Frances Kissling, who recently stepped down from her leadership of Catholics for a Free Choice, in this post: Pro-Choice, Pro-Faith.

May 22, 2007 in Abortion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

2008 Presidential Candidate Statements on a Woman's Right to Choose

Via NARAL Pro-Choice America:

We want you to know each presidential candidate's position on choice, so we asked candidates from both parties to express – in 200 words or less – their beliefs about a woman's right to choose.

View the candidates' statements as well as their congressional voting records (where applicable) on reproductive rights.

May 22, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wash. Post: "In 4th Decade On High Court, Stevens Stays True to Form"

Justice Known for Dissents Enters Top 10 for Tenure

Robert Barnes reports in yesterday's Washington Post:

Those who wonder if Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens might be tiring of the same old same old after 31 years on the job won't find any evidence in the court's workload this term.

Stevens was an active, if unfailingly polite, questioner at the court's oral argument sessions, wrote one of the court's two most important opinions issued so far, and is even more prolific when he's on the losing side. True to his reputation, he has written more dissents than any other member of the court -- one of them longer than the majority opinion with which he disagreed.

In a matter of months, the 87-year-old from Chicago could become the second-oldest justice ever to serve on the court, and earlier this year he moved into 10th place on the list of longest-serving justices.

I was impressed with Justice Stevens's sharp and feisty questioning of Solicitor General Paul Clement in the oral argument in Gonzales v. Carhart.  It was one of the few times during the argument that Clement seemed somewhat rattled.

Here is the passage from the transcript:

JUSTICE STEVENS: General Clement, are not some of the findings by Congress clearly erroneous? For example, there is a statement that no current medical schools provide instruction in the procedure. Now that's clearly wrong, isn't it?

GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, I mean, specifically what Congress found in that finding was that none of them provided it as part of a curriculum. And I think what the record here clearly reflects -- you know, I don't know that the idea of a curriculum -- I don't know exactly what Congress had in mind. But clearly, is a matter of sort of what you teach residents -

Continue reading

May 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

93 Lawmakers Sign Letter to Pelosi Asking for Legislative Action To Cut Contraception Prices

Via the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report:

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and 92 other lawmakers recently wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asking that she "take action on an appropriate legislative vehicle" to curb the price of birth control at college health clinics and family planning facilities, CQ Today reports (Allen/Adams, CQ Today, 5/18).

Changes in a Medicaid law resulting from a 2005 deficit-reduction bill resulted in drugmakers having reduced incentives to provide large discounts on some drugs to universities. Many colleges tried to maintain costs for contraceptives for a few months by buying in bulk before the new law took effect in January, but now their stocks are low and they have had to increase prices.

See also this related post: Federal Deficit Reduction Act Means Female Students Will Face Sharply Higher Prices for Contraception

May 21, 2007 in Congress, Contraception | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eating Apples, Fish During Pregnancy Protects Kids From Allergies, Asthma

Via today's Washington Post, by Juhie Bhatia (HealthDay):

Filling up on apples and fish during pregnancy might protect your child from developing asthma and allergic diseases, a new study shows.

Researchers from the Netherlands and Scotland have found that eating apples throughout pregnancy may protect against wheezing and asthma in 5-year-old children, while fish consumption may lower the risk of eczema, an allergic skin condition. The findings were to be presented Sunday at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference in San Francisco.

May 21, 2007 in Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missouri Legislative Assembly Passes New Abortion Laws

Via the Feminist Daily News Wire:

Missouri lawmakers on Friday passed House Bill 1055, limiting abortion access and weakening sex education programs in public schools. Governor Matt Blunt (R) told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is eager to sign the bill, which would require abortion clinics to be certified as outpatient surgery clinics. Certification, which will require upgrades in equipment and facilities, will likely be expensive. Reproductive health advocates objecting to the bill say that it will probably force the closure of two of the state's three abortion clinics. ...

Another provision in the bill will allow abstinence-only sex education in Missouri schools, despite recent findings that such programs are inadequate.

May 21, 2007 in Abortion, Sexuality Education, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NCAA to Review Policies on Pregnancy

The Casper reports:

The NCAA's committee on women in sports will review its guidelines amid reports of female athletes being threatened with the loss of scholarships if they became pregnant.  Janet Kittell, leader of the NCAA's committee on women's athletics, said her group will review the NCAA rules on pregnancy at a July meeting in Charlotte, N.C. ...

Last week, Cassandra Harding, a member of the Memphis track team, told The Associated Press that she lost her scholarship after becoming pregnant, and a Clemson athlete told ESPN she had an abortion to stay in school. Harding, who also considered abortion, returned to school without a scholarship and rejoined the track team as a walk-on after having her daughter, Assiah, now 22 months old. ...

Although NCAA rules allow a school to grant an athlete an extra year of eligibility if she's out for a year because of pregnancy, the rules don't require it. Nor do they spell out the rights of a pregnant athlete. NCAA rules do allow scholarships to be revoked if an athlete voluntarily decides she's unable to continue playing.

May 21, 2007 in Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conn. Gov. Rell Signs Emergency Contraception Law; Changes Still Possible

Via the Hartford Courant (5/17), by Hilary Waldman:

Without fanfare, Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Wednesday signed into law a measure that requires all hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

The law has been the subject of intense controversy for two years, primarily because of opposition from the Catholic Church.

Attempts to reach a compromise with the church failed, but lawmakers said they are still open to amending the law before it takes effect Oct. 1 if church leaders can offer an alternative that respects Catholic doctrine while ensuring equal access to care for all rape victims.

See also this related post.

May 21, 2007 in Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"First birth control pill meant to end periods poised for approval"

Linda A. Johnson of the Associated Press reports:

Women looking for a simple way to avoid their menstrual period could soon have access the first birth control pill designed to let women suppress monthly bleeding indefinitely.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expect to announce approval Tuesday for Lybrel, a drug from Wyeth which would be the first pill to be taken continuously.

Lybrel, a name meant to evoke "liberty," would be the fourth new oral contraceptive that doesn't follow the standard schedule of 21 daily active pills, followed by seven sugar pills — a design meant to mimic a woman's monthly cycle. Among the others, Yaz and Loestrin 24 shorten monthly periods to three days or less and Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, reduces them to four times a year.

Gynecologists say they've been seeing a slow but steady increase in women asking how to limit and even stop monthly bleeding. Surveys have found up to half of women would prefer not to have any periods, most would prefer them less often and a majority of doctors have prescribed contraception to prevent periods.

But see The Well-Timed Period for a reality check about what really happens when a woman is on the pill and continues to bleed every month.

May 20, 2007 in Contraception, Medical News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oregon Senate Passes Bill to Increase Access to Contraception in the Emergency Room and Through Employee Health Benefit Plans


The Oregon Senate today passed House Bill 2700, legislation that will require birth control coverage in employee health insurance plans that offer prescription drug coverage and provide access to emergency contraception in the emergency room for women who are victims of sexual assault....  Included in House Bill 2700 is the option for victims of sexual assault to receive emergency contraception in any hospital in Oregon.

...House Bill 2700 will now move to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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

Saturday, May 19, 2007

ACLU Asks State, Federal Officials To Investigate Oregon-Based Abstinence-Only Sex Education Program's Use of Public Funds

Via the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon have sent letters to HHS and the Oregon Department of Human Services, respectively, asking the agencies to investigate whether a Eugene, Ore.-based abstinence-only sex education program used public funds for religious purposes, the Eugene Register-Guard reports. The ACLU said the Lane Pregnancy Support Center is unconstitutionally using public funds for its "Stop and Think" program because it requires that all program presenters "hold particular religious beliefs."

According to the Register-Guard, the Northern Hills Pregnancy Care Center in Spearfish, S.D., in 2002 signed a contract with the "Stop and Think" program that required presenters and supervisors of its curriculum "possess an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ." The contract further stipulated that presenters "possess knowledge of the word of God and the ability to communicate its truth; exhibit a loving and merciful spirit; (and) attend a Bible-believing local church or fellowship," the Register-Guard reports.

See also this related post: Keeping Religion Out of Government-Funded Abstinence-Only Programs

May 19, 2007 in Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)