Friday, June 22, 2007

Wash. Post: Democrats Pass Provision for Contraceptives in House Foreign Aid Bill

Elizabeth Williamson reports for the Washington Post:

Move Is First Challenge To Antiabortion Riders

House Democrats narrowly passed a measure yesterday to provide contraceptives to overseas organizations that had been banned from receiving foreign aid because they provided or promoted abortion.

The amendment to an important antiabortion measure in the House foreign aid spending bill was a rebuke to President Bush, who has strictly opposed providing any assistance to groups that promote abortion. The Reagan-era measure, known as the Mexico City policy, was fiercely protected by Bush, who has issued two veto threats over the foreign aid bill should Democrats attempt to alter any of the antiabortion measures it contains.

The change to the measure may prove to be the House Democrats' only significant challenge to the antiabortion riders that have been added to a range of annual spending bills by abortion opponents over three decades.

The Mexico City measure is one of more than a dozen provisions banning Medicaid recipients, D.C. public health patients, prison inmates, government workers and even Peace Corps volunteers from getting a federally funded abortion. And Democrats have appeared cautious about taking on the bigger fight. That was evident even in the debate before yesterday's vote. The House passed the foreign aid bill 241 to 178.

Read more about the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, here.

June 22, 2007 in Congress, Contraception, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times: The Presidential Candidates on Abortion

The New York Times has made available on its website a chart with quotations from each of the presidential candidates on the topic of abortion (although I fear it may be available only to subscribers):

The issue of abortion is front and center for both the Democrats and Republicans in the presidential field but has been especially problematic to the top Republican candidates: Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Below is a look at what all the candidates, Democratic or Republican, have said on the issue. 

If you're not a NYT subscriber, you can find a link to candidates' statements on reproductive rights at NARAL's website at this post.

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

Michael Dorf on Gonzales v. Carhart and The Karl Rovification of the Supreme Court

Michael Dorf comments, at Dorf on Law:

As I noted last week (here), Tom Goldstein is projecting the current Supreme Court Term as VERY conservative (here).  Jeff Toobin makes the same point in The New Yorker (available here, and while you're over at The New Yorker, check out Seymour Hersh's utterly frightening account of what happened to General Taguba for uncovering the truth about Abu Ghraib, but then come back to Dorf on Law). Here I'll tentatively observe something about the character of the 5-4 decisions we're seeing. Perhaps a close reading of all of this Term's cases wouldn't bear this out, but my subjective and informal impression is that when the Court splits 5 (Roberts/Scalia/Kennedy/Thomas/Alito) - 4 (Stevens/Souter/Ginsburg/Breyer), the 5 are basically ignoring or dismissing objections raised by the 4.

Gonzales v. Carhart is a nice example. The dissenters were practically running around with their hair on fire saying that there was no way to reconcile the decision with the 2000 decision in Nebraska v. Carhart; yet Justice Kennedy's opinion, while drawing a plausible distinction with respect to the notice issue, basically punted on distinguishing the Nebraska case with respect to the health exception. The majority could have said it was overruling the Nebraska case, but for their own reasons they didn't want to, so their response to the dissenters was the jurisprudential equivalent of a shrug.

June 22, 2007 in Gonzales v. Carhart, In the Courts, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Research Legislation

Michael A. Fletcher reports for the Washington Post:

President Bush yesterday vetoed legislation to expand federally funded embryonic stem cell research, saying that scientific advances now allow researchers to pursue the potentially lifesaving work without destroying human embryos.

Bush followed his veto -- his third since becoming president -- with an executive order aimed at encouraging federal agencies to support research that offers the promise of creating medically useful stem cells without destroying human embryos....

The veto came under attack from those who say the president is withholding critical support for the most promising forms of stem cell research to appease conservative Christians and other supporters who equate human embryos with human lives

June 22, 2007 in Bioethics, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Swiss back cervical cancer shot, UK decision soon

Via Reuters:

Switzerland has recommended that girls should be vaccinated with Gardasil, the cervical cancer shot marketed by Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) in Europe, the firms said on Monday.

The Swiss decision to offer the vaccine routinely to 11 to 14-year old girls follows similar moves by Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, meanwhile, will decide on its policy at a meeting on June 20, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said.

June 21, 2007 in International, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Can You Say, "Abortion?"

Sandra Kobrin comments in Women's eNews on the "A-word" phenomenon:

There's a climate change happening in this country and I'm not just talking about global warming. I'm also talking about abortion. At one time the procedure to terminate a pregnancy was not a dirty word in Hollywood films.

Throughout the 1950s, '60s, '70s and even into the '80s you could not only say the word abortion but have characters actually get one in a film, like Jennifer Jason Leigh's character in the 1982 comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Imagine abortion in a comedy, dealing with a difficult situation with humor and pathos. "I called the 'free' clinic and it cost $100," Leigh's character laments.

Not anymore. Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up," a raunchy comedy in a cinema near you, turned abortion into the "A" word, in league with the "N" word and other epithets so taboo as to be bracketed off from regular speech.

The same can be said for Waitress, in which not only the main character, the pregnant Jenna, but even her doctor cannot bring themselves to say the word.

See also: NY Times: "On Abortion, Hollywood Is No-Choice"

June 21, 2007 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wash. Post: "Bush Moving to Bolster Stem Cell Alternatives"

Michael Fletcher and David Brown reported in yesterday's Washington Post:

President Bush, under increasing pressure to relax his restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, plans to issue an executive order today to encourage government agencies to support research that offers the promise of creating medically useful stem cells without destroying human embryos, according to senior administration officials.

The order, which Bush plans to outline in a speech at the White House today, would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines for funding alternative approaches over the next three months.

Bush is to issue his order as he vetoes legislation that would loosen his six-year-old restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The bill passed by comfortable -- but not veto-proof -- margins in the House and Senate. Bush has opposed research with stem cells derived in a process that destroys human embryos, which he calls immoral.

Immoral (because it destroys "innocent human life"), but not murder (because, please, that sounds too radical).  (In Bush-Administration-Speak, "destroying innocent human life" is to "murder" as "faith-based" is to "religious.").

See also: House Votes to Expand Stem Cell Research

June 21, 2007 in Bioethics, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fundamental Mormons seek recognition for polygamy

Reuters reported last week:

The attorneys general of Utah and Arizona said in separate interviews they had no intention of prosecuting polygamists unless they commit other crimes such as taking underage brides -- a practice authorities said was rampant in a Utah-Arizona border community run by Warren Jeffs before his arrest in August.

"We are not going to go out there and persecute people for their beliefs," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Via Concurring Opinions.

June 20, 2007 in Miscellaneous, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wash. Post: Stem Cell Policy Hampering Research, NIH Official Says

Rick Weiss reports for the Washington Post:

The National Institutes of Health official overseeing the implementation of President Bush's embryonic stem cell policy yesterday suggested that the controversial program is delaying cures, an unusually blunt assessment for an executive branch official.

In prepared Senate testimony, Story Landis, director of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and interim chair of the agency's stem cell task force, closely mirrored previous testimony from other NIH officials, who have for years been careful not to criticize the Bush policy directly, even though that policy has infuriated many scientists because of the limits it places on embryo cell work.

But under questioning, Landis spoke more plainly. When Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked her how the policy was affecting medical research, she said, "We are missing out on possible breakthroughs." The ability to work on newly derived stem cell colonies -- precluded from federal funding under the Bush plan -- "would be incredibly important," she added.

June 20, 2007 in Bioethics, Medical News, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Song Lyrics About Abortion and Unintended Pregnancy

Here's Brick, by Ben Folds Five -- a song about abortion from the man's perspective.

6 am day after Christmas
I throw some clothes on in the dark
The smell of cold
Car seat is freezing
The world is sleeping
I am numb

Up the stairs to her apartment
She is balled up on the couch
Her mom and dad went down to Charlotte
They're not home to find us out
And we drive
Now that I have found someone
I'm feeling more alone
Than I ever have before

She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly

They call her name at 7:30
I pace around the parking lot
Then I walk down to buy her flowers
And sell some gifts that I got
Can't you see
It's not me you're dying for
Now she's feeling more alone
Than she ever has before

She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly

As weeks went by
It showed that she was not fine
They told me, "son, it's time to tell the truth"

She broke down, and I broke down
Cause I was tired of lying

Driving back to her apartment
For the moment we're alone
Yeah she's alone
I'm alone
Now I know it

She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly
Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly

Watch the video.

June 19, 2007 in Abortion, Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bloomberg Quits G.O.P., Stirring Talk About ’08 Race

Adam Nagourney reports for the New York Times:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York announced this evening  that he was  quitting the Republican Party and changing his political affiliation to independent.

The announcement came after Mr. Bloomberg gave a speech denouncing partisan gridlock in Washington, stirring renewed speculation that he is preparing to run for president in 2008 as an independent or third-party candidate.

...Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to leave the Republican Party and become an independent was immediately viewed by many of his prospective rivals as a major jolt to the presidential campaign. Mr. Bloomberg has never shown any reluctance to use his huge personal fortune to advance his career. He spent more than $150 million on his two bids for mayor, and he would have no problem financing his own presidential campaign.

What is more, Mr. Bloomberg has arguably at least as strong a claim on New York City’s  prosperity as his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is seeking the Republican nomination. If Mr. Bloomberg decides to run as an independent or third-party candidate, he might find that he enjoys the benefits of New York City’s successes without the ideological burdens that Mr. Giuliani has faced in trying to win the Republican nomination while being identified with such positions as supporting abortion, gay rights and gun control.

(Please note that the full article may be available only to NYT subscribers.)

June 19, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reproductive Medicine and the Law Conference Begins Tomorrow

A joint AALS and ASRM Workshop on Reproductive Medicine and Law takes place this week on June 20-22 in Vancouver.  Visit the conference website.

June 19, 2007 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Conferences and Symposia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reps. Maloney, Honda Co-Sponsoring Legislation That Would Provide Funds to UNFPA's 'End Fistula' Campaign

Via the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report:

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Michael Honda (D-Calif.) are co-sponsoring legislation that would provide funding to the United Nations Population Fund's "End Fistula" campaign, the Washington Times reports (Zieminski, Washington Times, 6/17).

Obstetric fistula develops when a fetus becomes lodged during labor in the narrow birth canal of a girl or young woman, causing pressure that blocks the flow of blood to vital tissues and tearing holes in the bowel, urethra or both, causing incontinence. Physicians can repair a small fistula surgically in less than two hours, but repairing a larger fistula and restoring a woman's continence sometimes requires more than one surgery. UNFPA's "End Fistula" campaign is a worldwide project that is working in more than 40 countries to eradicate the condition by 2015 (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/18).

June 19, 2007 in Congress, International, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

NARAL Survey Finds Many North Carolina Pharmacies Don't Sell Emergency Contraception

Steve Hartsoe reports for the Associated Press:

The emergency contraceptive widely known as the "morning-after pill," which has been available over the counter since August, isn't carried in about 40 percent of North Carolina pharmacies, according to a survey conducted by an abortion rights group.

The survey conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina also found that roughly a third of those pharmacies don't stock the pill sold as "Plan B" because they refuse to order it.

The group attributed the pill's unavailability to confusion and moral opposition among pharmacists, and said the numbers are a cause for concern because Plan B can help prevent unintended pregnancies for women who have been sexually assaulted.

June 17, 2007 in Contraception, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Major demonstration set in Birmingham at abortion clinic bombed by Rudolph

The Associated Press reports:

Abortion opponents said Thursday they are planning a major demonstration in hopes of shutting down the women's clinic in Birmingham that was bombed in 1998 by extremist Eric Rudolph, killing a police officer and critically injuring a nurse.... 

Johnson said plans include a demonstration at the clinic, which was heavily damaged by the bombing but reopened in days.  The Web site of Operation Save America urges supporters to come to Birmingham for nine days beginning July 14 to "storm the gates of hell."

See also: Anti-Abortion Extremist Taunts His Victims From Prison


June 17, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Caitlin Flanagan on "Abortion and the Bloodiness of Being Female"

In The Sanguine Sex (Atlantic Monthly, 5/07), Caitlin Flanagan reviews two books on abortion and unintended pregnancy: Angela Bonavoglia's The Choices We Made and Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade.  From the review:

The history of abortion is a history of stories, and the ones that took place before Roe v. Wade are oftentimes so pitiable and heartbreaking that one of the most powerful tools of pro-choice advocates is simply telling them. The Choices We Made is a compendium of such stories, and while you could read it in an afternoon, you should not make the decision to do so lightly: It will trouble you for a long time afterward....

The Girls Who Went Away describes another price women once paid for having sex. It concerns the young girls—usually high-school students—who were part of a phenomenon virtually unheard-of today but once quite common in American cities and suburbs: the sending of underage pregnant girls to maternity homes, where they would bear their babies and surrender them for adoption. Neighbors and friends would be told that the girl had suddenly gone on an extended visit to an aunt or grandmother, and in the fullness of time the girl would return, pale and shaken, to pick up where she had left off, never telling anyone where she had been.

...The heroic and audacious and mystifying part of the stories in these two books isn’t how women got through abortions or adoptions; it’s how they got the courage to have sex in the first place.

June 17, 2007 in Abortion, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

McCain camp hits Romney on abortion

Last week the Boston Globe reported:

The campaign of Senator John McCain launched a new broadside against Mitt Romney yesterday over Romney's reversal on abortion, but Romney's campaign quickly hit back by saying McCain's move was borne out of desperation.

The back-and-forth began when the Arizona Republican's aides, trying to stir up controversy before Romney's address to the National Right to Life convention in Kansas City tomorrow, sent an e-mail to reporters questioning Romney's rhetoric on abortion. The e-mail, under the header "Mitt vs. Fact," included a link to a YouTube video of Romney saying in May 2005 that he was committed to maintaining the "status quo" on Massachusetts abortion laws.

McCain's campaign tried to equate those remarks with an endorsement of abortion rights and argue that they contradict Romney's assertion that he became an opponent of abortion rights after an epiphany months earlier during a debate over stem cell research.

Meanwhile, Romney tried to woo anti-choice voters. The Associated Press reported:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday told hundreds of anti-abortion activists that his conversion to their cause is genuine as he sought to fend off rivals' criticism that he's inconsistent on the issue.

"I know that it is not time but conviction that unites us," Romney said in remarks on the second day of the National Right to Life's annual convention. "I proudly follow a long line of converts — George Herbert Walker Bush, Henry Hyde, and Ronald Reagan to name a few."


June 17, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

HIV Testing and the Federal Ryan White Grant Program

Sigrid Fry-Revere, Director of Bioethics Studies at the Cato Institute, writes:

The lure of federal dollars may be prompting California lawmakers to consider an ill-advised law to make HIV testing routine. But there's nothing routine about testing for HIV, and legislative efforts to make it more common show little concern for the frankness of the doctor-patient relationship, or the insidious threats to patient privacy.

Assembly member Patty Berg, D-Eureka, introduced a bill in February to encourage routine testing for HIV by eliminating state requirements that patients provide written consent to the procedure. The bill was voted out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 31 and is expected to come to a vote before the full Assembly later this week and possibly as early as today.

No lawmaker admits as much, but the effort may, at least in part, be driven by the new federal Ryan White Grant Program requirements that states provide the names of HIV patients — not just anonymous numbers — to the federal government in order to receive funding for state HIV programs. To maximize numbers, the bill absolves physicians of any need to obtain written consent or do pre-test counseling, and creates a presumption that the test will be done unless the patient specifically objects.

The Ryan White Grant Program seems to be causing a push in state legislatures to test pregnant women for HIV unless they expressly refuse.  See: HIV testing for pregnant women, newborns advances in NJ and Nevada Governor Signs HIV Testing Bill Aimed at Pregnant Women, Infants.

Read more about HIV testing of pregnant women and newborns.

June 16, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Sexually Transmitted Disease, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Appropriations Committee to Consider Funding Increase for Abstinence-Only Programs

From the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

The Senate Appropriations Committee will be voting on legislation the week of June 18th....

A Democratic Congress is poised to give a failed policy - abstinence-only-until-marriage programs - its second-largest funding increase.  The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee recently voted to increase funding for the Community Based Abstinence Education Program by $27.8 million in fiscal year 2008....

Congress should support reproductive health policies that are effective, save taxpayer dollars and protect the public health.  We are pleased to see that in this same House Appropriations bill, members of the committee approved an increase to Title X, the National Family Planning Program.  But the increase for abstinence-only-until marriage programs is outrageous and unacceptable.

The ACLU urges that you take action on this issue.

June 16, 2007 in Congress, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jeffrey Rosen on Justice Kennedy

Rosen In the New Republic, Jeffrey Rosen writes:


Supreme Leader

Anthony Kennedy seems most at home when he is lecturing others about morality. And now all of us have little choice but to pay attention. With the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy is relishing his role as the new swing justice on an evenly divided court. As Kennedy goes, so goes America: As he votes to uphold partial-birth abortion laws or to strike down President Bush's military tribunals, lo shall they be upheld or struck down. Fawning lawyers must write briefs to Kennedy alone, and breathless commentators try to predict which laws he will bless or reprove....

The grandiosity of Kennedy's self-image was on full display in a 2005 interview he gave to the Academy of Achievement, a group that seeks to inspire youth by promoting virtues like courage and integrity. In his interview, Kennedy made clear that he thinks the Court plays a more important role in American life than Congress. "You know, in any given year, we may make more important decisions than the legislative branch does--precluding foreign affairs, perhaps," he said. "Important in the sense that it will control the direction of society." When asked to name the most important qualities for achievement in his field, he replied: "To have an understanding that you have an opportunity to shape the destiny of the country." And that is exactly what Anthony Kennedy has set out to do.

Rosen has been considerably more generous in his assessments of Chief Justice Roberts.  See this post.

June 16, 2007 in In the Courts, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)