Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Jeffrey Reiman: The Pro-Life Argument from Substantial Identity and the Pro-Choice Argument from Asymmetric Value

Jeffrey Reiman, a philosophy professor at American University, has posted The Pro-Life Argument from Substantial Identity and the Pro-Choice Argument from Asymmetric Value: A Reply to Patrick Lee on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:Reiman

Lee claims that foetuses and adult humans are phases of the same identical substance, and thus have the same moral status because: first, foetuses and adults are the same physical organism, and second, the development from foetus to adult is quantitative and thus not a change of substance. Versus the first argument, I contend that the fact that foetuses and adults are the same physical organism implies only that they are the same thing but not the same substance, much as living adults and their corpses are the same thing (same body) but not the same substance. Against Lee's second argument, I contend that Lee confuses the nature of a process with the nature of its result. A process of quantitative change can produce a change in substance. Lee also fails to show that foetuses are rational and thus have all the essential properties of adults, as required for them to be the same substance. Against the pro-choice argument from asymmetric value (that only the fact that a human has become conscious of its life and begun to count on its continuing can explain human life's asymmetric moral value, i.e. that it is vastly worse to kill a human than not to produce one), Lee claims that foetus's lives are asymmetrically valuable to them before consciousness. This leads to counterintuitive outcomes, and it confuses the goodness of life (a symmetric value that cannot account for why it is worse to kill a human than not produce one) with asymmetric value.

The article by Patrick Lee to which Reiman is responding is available to subscribers on the Blackwell Synergy website. 

July 24, 2007 in Abortion, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

House Passes Spending Bill That Increases Abstinence Education, Family Planning Program Funding, Bans Funding for Mandated HPV Vaccination

Via the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report:

The House on Thursday voted 276-140 to approve a $152 billion fiscal year 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043), which includes increases in funding for HHS' Community-Based Abstinence Education Program and for the Title X family planning program, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Taylor, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/19).

CBAE, which gives grants to groups that teach abstinence but not how to use contraception, would receive an allocation of $141 million for FY 2008 under the measure. The program's allocation in FY 2007 was $109 million, and President Bush requested a $137 million allocation for the program in FY 2008. Some Democrats hope the funding level for CBAE will garner support from Republicans on spending bills.

The measure also would allocate $311 million for Title X, an increase of $27.8 million from FY 2007. Some family planning advocates said the allocation is less than historic levels of funding, adjusted for inflation. The bill also would leave in place restrictions on federal funding for abortions.

See also this story from the Kaiser Report: House Subcommittee Passes Bill That Would Increase Postpartum Research, Encourage Research on Abortion's Mental Health Effects.

July 22, 2007 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Panos Releases Media Toolkit on International Sexual and Reproductive Health

The Panos RELAY Program, which is engaged in "exploring new ways of linking the media with academic research communities," has published "Good choice: the right to sexual and reproductive health," the fourth in a series of media toolkits.  The toolkit can be downloaded from Siyanda.  Here is the short summary:

As well as covering key issues around sexual and reproductive health services the briefing provides advice on how journalists should use researchers as sources, and some of the dangers involved. For example, it stresses the importance of grasping the significance of statistics and not drawing general conclusions which may not be valid. It also provides a number of tips on the ethics of reporting on potentially vulnerable people, including maintaining confidentiality, avoiding stigma, raising awareness about legal issues, and double checking factual information. A 'Lessons learned' section outlines some prompts for interesting articles, including take-up of new technologies e.g. female condoms; bringing services together e.g. helping decentralised services compete better for funding; and the role of community participation in improving health services.

July 22, 2007 in International, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 20, 2007

On-the-Ground Report from Birmingham

Rev. Katherine Ragsdale reports (on Bush v. Choice) about the mass protests going on outside abortion clinics in Birmingham:

You might have heard about what’s going on in Alabama, but the media coverage has been largely biased, if there’s any at all, and I want to make sure that our story is told.   

Can you imagine going to your doctor's office and navigating through a crowd of 150 protesters screaming at you? Let's mix in the shouts of "baby killer" and other verbal attacks with the amplification of bagpipes playing.

What if the doctor's office had volunteers using umbrellas to shield patients from the mob scene and shouting as they traveled to and from their cars?

That's what is happening outside the New Women All Women Health Clinic, where I arrived yesterday as a representative for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “Operations Save America” is targeting this clinic and another one in Alabama as part of its ongoing intimidation and violence campaign against a woman’s right to choose.

See also: Anti-Abortion Activists Descended on Birmingham and Wichita Over the Weekend 


July 20, 2007 in Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Records Show Fred Thompson’s Work for Family Planning Unit

Jo Becker reported in yesterday's New York Times:

Billing records show that former Senator Fred Thompson spent nearly 20 hours working as a lobbyist on behalf of a group seeking to ease restrictive federal rules on abortion counseling in the 1990s, even though he recently said he did not recall  doing any work for the  organization.

According to records from Arent Fox, the law firm based in Washington where Mr. Thompson worked part-time from 1991 to 1994, he charged the organization, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, about $5,000 for work he did in 1991 and 1992. The records show that Mr. Thompson, a probable Republican candidate for president in 2008, spent much of that time in telephone conferences with the president of the group, and on three occasions he reported lobbying administration officials on its behalf.

July 20, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Martha Solay González Dies Due to Colombian Abortion Ban

Should you need a reminder of how precious our reproductive rights are, watch this incredibly moving video about the groundbreaking litigation in Colombia to legalize abortion.  This story underscores the irony that, while countries worldwide are moving to liberalize their abortion laws, the United States is sliding in the opposite direction.

The short (15 min.) film (in Spanish with English subtitles) gives fascinating insights into what made the campaign successful, including the change in the tone of media coverage of abortion, the accompanying change in public discourse on the issue, the appeal to international human rights principles as a litigation strategy, and the particularities of litigating in the Colombian Constitutional Court. 

Via Women's Link World Wide:

Martha Solay González, a 37-year old single mother of four girls, ages 18, 7, 6, and 3, died on June 11, 2007. Martha bravely told her story to support the liberalization of abortion laws in Colombia even though it was too late for her. Her life and words will always be an inspiration to us, so we can continue our work in the struggle for a society where gender is never a barrier for the full enjoyment of human rights.

At age 34, González was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  She needed an abortion before she could receive the chemotherapy and radiation treatments she needed, but under Columbian law at the time, abortion was illegal under all circumstances.  The law now permits abortions in cases of rape and incest, if the woman's life or health (mental or physical) is in danger, or in case of certain fetal anomalies.

About the video:

On May 10, 2006, the Colombian Constitutional Court issued a historic decision liberalizing the country's abortion laws, which previously were among the world’s most restrictive. The video explores the process of filing the lawsuit and the debate surrounding it.

For more about the decision, see this post: Colombian Court Ruling Legalizing Abortion Now Available in English.

July 20, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

On Hardball yesterday: "Age-appropriate sex ed and politics"

On Hardball (MSNBC) yesterday:

Presidential hopeful Republican Mitt Romney is pouncing on Sen. Barack Obama's remarks about sex education for young children. Reverend John Hunte, a religious adviser to the Obama Campaign, and Barbara Comstock, senior adviser to the Romney Campaign, debate.

Watch the video.  The segment makes much of parents' supposed unease at the prospect of sex education being taught in the schools.  But polls show that parents consistently support comprehensive sexuality education.

July 20, 2007 in Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Many thanks to Eve Rips, who will be entering her senior year at Stanford University this fall, for helping out with the Reproductive Rights Prof blog this summer.  Eve is studying philosophy and political science at Stanford and doing an honors thesis in ethics in society.

July 19, 2007 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times: "In Poll, Women Are Supportive but Skeptical of Clinton"

Katharine Seelye and Dalia Sussman report in today's New York Times:

Women view Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York more favorably than men do, but she still faces skepticism among some women, especially those who are older and those who are married, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Women hold more positive views than men of all the leading Democratic candidates. But winning the support of women, who made up 54 percent of voters in the last presidential election, is especially important to Mrs. Clinton, who has sought to rally them behind her potentially historic candidacy as she seeks to become the first woman president. The poll found that while many women continue to have negative feelings about her, over all they tend to agree with her on the issues and see her as a strong leader.

July 19, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Politics, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Journal of Public Health: Call for Submissions

The American Journal of Public Health invites submissions for papers on reproductive and sexual health for a symposium edition.  The deadline is Sept 17, 2007.  According to the Journal's instructions for authors:

The foremost mission of the American Journal of Public Health (the Journal) is to promote public health research, policy, practice, and education. We aim to embrace all of public health, from global policies to the local needs of public health practitioners. Contributions of original unpublished research, social science analyses, scholarly essays, critical commentaries, departments, and letters to the editor are welcome. The Journal adheres to the criteria of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

Guidelines for submission can be found here. For more information on the symposium edition, contact reprohealth.law@utoronto.ca.

July 19, 2007 in Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Leslie Griffin on "Conscience and Emergency Contraception"

Lesliegriffin Leslie Griffin (University of Houston) has posted Conscience and Emergency Contraception on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article examines the influence of religious beliefs on the law of emergency contraception. That influence is evident in two areas of the law. The first is conscience clause legislation, which allows health care providers to refuse participation in abortion, sterilization, contraception, or other medical procedures for religious and moral reasons. The second is the substantive content of health law and policy. The article first describes recent claims of conscience by pharmacists who refuse to dispense emergency contraception. It then reviews state and federal attempts to regulate the availability of emergency contraception. It also discusses the implications of the debates about contraception for the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, concluding that legislative over-reliance on conscience clauses may violate the Establishment Clause.

Griffin's article focuses on an example of the tension addressed in Cass Sunstein's article, On the Tension Between Sex Equality and Religious Freedom (see this post). The Access to Birth Control Act, introduced in Congress last month by Representative Carolyn Maloney and Senator Frank Lautenberg would make it illegal for pharmacies to deny women access to contraception.  Groups endorsing the "ABC" bill include NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, and the National Women’s Law Center.

July 19, 2007 in Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Giuliani: Abortion Not a Test for Judges

The Associated Press reports today:

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a proponent of abortion rights, said Wednesday he would not use a judicial nominee's stand on the issue or the landmark Supreme Court decision as a litmus test.

On a campaign swing through conservative western Iowa, the former New York mayor pledged to appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution on gun rights and other issues. Abortion never came up in his address to about 100 people at a high school, but it did during an exchange with reporters.

"Abortion is not a litmus test. Roe v. Wade is not a litmus test. No particular case is a litmus test. That's not the way to appoint Supreme Court justices or any judge," Giuliani said.

Although Giuliani has declared that he will not seek to make abortion illegal if he becomes President, his public statements on the issue have not been exactly straightforward.  He has stated that he would not actively attempt to preserve existing abortion law, but would instead leave that to the Court.  The inconsistency between Giuliani's position on abortion and his intent to appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court was pointed out earlier this year by the New York Times.

July 19, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Politics, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Report Shows Unmet Need for Contraception in Developing Countries

The Guttmacher Institute has released a report showing that "[m]ore than 100 million married women living in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception, meaning that they are able to become pregnant but do not want to, and yet are not using either a traditional or modern method of contraception." According to the report:

[M]ore than one in seven married and one in 13 never-married women aged 15–49 have an unmet need for contraception in the countries reviewed in this report. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 24% of married women have an unmet need for contraception. The regional average level of unmet need ranges from 10% to 12% in South and Southeast Asia, North Africa and West Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In the past decade, the level of unmet need has improved least in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared with other regions.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, 9% of never-married women have an unmet need for contraception, and in the Latin American region, 5% have an unmet need.

Read the Guttmacher Institute's news release on the report.

July 18, 2007 in Contraception, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abstinence Education Faces an Uncertain Future

Today's New York Times reports:

For the first time ... Virginity Rules and 700 kindred abstinence education programs are fighting serious threats to their future. Eleven state health departments rejected abstinence education this year, while legislatures in Colorado, Iowa and Washington passed laws that could kill, or at least wound, its presence in public schools.

Opponents received high-caliber ammunition this spring when the most comprehensive study of abstinence education found no sign that it delayed a teenager’s sexual debut. And, after enjoying a fivefold increase in their main federal appropriations, the abstinence programs in June received their first cut in financing from the Senate appropriations committee since 2001.

But the final outcome is in question. Some $176 million in federal support has survived several early maneuvers in the House, and the full House plans to debate the issue July 18 as part of the proposed Health and Human Services budget.

See also: CNN: "Study: Abstinence programs no guarantee".  To see all of this blog's posts on sexuality education and abstinence-only programs, click here.

July 18, 2007 in Congress, Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

LA Gov. Signs Abortion Ban and Fetal Pain Measure

The Associated Press reported Friday:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed legislation Friday that penalizes doctors who perform a late-term abortion procedure, making Louisiana the first to outlaw the surgery since a similar federal ban was upheld this year.

The new law allows the procedure only when the mother's life would be endangered without it. It would be a crime in all other cases, including when the pregnancy is expected to cause health problems for the mother. 

The statute mirrors a federal ban that President Bush signed into law in 2003 and upheld in April by the U.S. Supreme Court....

The Democratic governor on Monday signed legislation requiring that all women seeking an abortion be notified that fetuses can feel pain by 20 weeks gestation, and doctors who perform the procedure to discuss the availability of painkillers for fetuses.... Opponents say doctors don't agree on whether fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.

Note that bans on so-called "partial-birth abortion" do not apply only to abortions performed late in pregnancy, but affect abortions performed throughout the second trimester.  Moreover, in 2000 the Supreme Court found that Nebraska's ban targeted not only the "dilation and extraction" procedure described in the Associated Press story, but also prohibited the most common method of second-trimester abortion.  Although the Supreme Court this year upheld the virtually identical ban passed by Congress, the about-face is attributable to a newly composed Court that no longer included Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  Find more information here on the deceptive nature and sweeping reach of "partial-birth abortion" bans, and on the Court's decision in Gonzales v. CarhartSee here for all of this blog's posts on Gonzales v. Carhart.

July 17, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Gonzales v. Carhart | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Edwards Speak Today at Planned Parenthood Event

Via The Caucus (NYT):

Senator Barack Obama told the audience at a Planned Parenthood conference in Washington that he keeps his two young daughters in mind when he thinks about women’s issues. He said he often wonders, “What kind of America will our daughters grow up in?”...

He noted that the Supreme Court’s April decision in Gonzales v. Carhart to uphold a ban on late-term abortions was the first time the court had endorsed an abortion restriction without an exception for the health of the mother, saying that it was part of a “concerted effort to steadily roll back the hard-won rights of American women.”...

Earlier in the day, Elizabeth Edwards addressed the gathering as a stand-in for her husband, John Edwards, who is on a poverty tour of the country. She highlighted his support of abortion rights. Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards has been critical of the Supreme Court’s late-term abortion ruling.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will appear at the Planned Parenthood event this evening.

See also this story by Robin Toner of the NYT.  According to The Hill:

An official with Planned Parenthood said the group is expecting about 500 of its public affairs officers from around the country to attend, and they will be analyzing how each of the candidates “would stand up for women’s health as president.”...

The rest of the field was invited to attend, the Planned Parenthood official said, but only the Obama, Clinton and Edwards campaigns responded.

July 17, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Anti-Abortion Activists Descended on Birmingham and Wichita Over the Weekend

Via the Feminist Daily News Wire (7/13):

Birmingham, Alabama and Wichita, Kansas are the targets of protests by anti-abortion groups this weekend. Starting tomorrow, Operation Save America -- led by Flip Benham -- will be in Birmingham for a week-long protest with the stated purpose of closing down the city's last two abortion clinics: a Planned Parenthood clinic and the New Women, All Women clinic, which was the site of a fatal bombing in 1998 by Eric Robert Rudolph. The group has planned sidewalk protests, vigils, press conferences, and rallies. Confirmed guests include state Senator Hank Erwin and former Judge Roy Moore who left office after refusing to remove a statue of the 10 Commandments from the state Supreme Court building.

Also this weekend, a group of Christian young people on a cross-country tour from a national revival in Nashville, Tennessee to San Francisco are planning to stop in Wichita, Kansas to join Operation Rescue for a three-day anti-abortion protest. Vigils and prayer sessions are scheduled to happen outside of Dr. George Tiller's clinic, one of the few US clinics where women from across the country can access later-term abortions.

July 16, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Portugal: Legalized Abortion Goes into Effect

Portugals Via the Feminist Daily News Wire:

Portugal's law to legalize abortion within the first ten weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Sunday. The law was a result of a February referendum and an April parliamentary vote in which the country opted overwhelmingly to lift the abortion ban, which was one of the most restrictive in Europe. Although the law was passed in April, it had to be published in government records before it could take effect.

Women who choose to abort will be required to go to a medical appointment in order to ensure that they are properly informed about the procedure. Then, they must wait a mandated three days before undergoing an abortion.

See also related posts here and here.

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

July 16, 2007 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cass Sunstein: On the Tension between Sex Equality and Religious Freedom

Sunstein Cass Sunstein has posted On the Tension between Sex Equality and Religious Freedom on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

When, if ever, is it legitimate for law to ban sex discrimination by religious institutions? It is best to approach this question by noticing that most of the time, ordinary civil and criminal law are legitimately applied to such institutions. For example, members of religious organizations cannot commit torts, even if the commission of torts is said to be part of their religious practices. Many people seem to accept what might be called an Asymmetry Thesis, which holds that sex equality principles may not be applied to religious institutions, whereas ordinary civil and criminal law may indeed be applied to them. This essay argues that the Asymmetry Thesis cannot be defended, and that much of the time, sex equality principles are properly applied to religious institutions. Discussion is also devoted to the controversial idea that facially neutral laws may be applied to religious institutions even if they have a severe adverse effect on religious practices.

The tension Sunstein addresses has arisen frequently in the reproductive rights context: pharmacists with religious objections to contraception have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control; employers affiliated with the Catholic church have refused to include coverage for prescription birth control in employee health benefit plans that otherwise cover prescription medication; and emergency rooms in Catholic hospitals have refused to provide emergency contraception to rape survivors.  For more on this issue, see the following reports from the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project: Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights; Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy ; Victories on the Coasts: Courts Uphold Balance Between Reproductive Rights and Religious Freedom.

July 16, 2007 in Religion and Reproductive Rights, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

NY Times: Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance

Robert Pear reported in Sunday's New York Times:

The White House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The vow puts Mr. Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular program to cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children....

The program, which insured 7.4 million people at some time in the last year, is set to expire Sept. 30.  The Finance Committee is expected to approve the Senate plan next week, sending it to the full Senate for action later this month.

Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said he would move ahead despite the veto threat.

July 15, 2007 in Congress, President/Executive Branch, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)