Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2007 Community-Based Abstinence Education Grantees

Who is getting all that (wasted) funding for Community-Based Abstinence Education Programs?  Here is a list of the new grantees for FY2007.  In addition, SIECUS offers a publication profiling abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and their intersection with sexuality education programs in the United States.  That publication covers grantees from previous years who may still be receiving funds (but will not show up on the above list of FY2007 grantees).

H/T: Jennifer McAllister-Nevins at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

October 31, 2007 in Congress, President/Executive Branch, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt launches task force examining how abortions affect women

This is lovely.  The Associated Press reports (10/28):

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Matt Blunt, an abortion opponent, has launched the state on a scientific quest to determine how abortions affect women — a question so complex that it confounded a U.S. surgeon general.

The Governor’s Task Force on the Impact of Abortion on Women convened last week in Blunt’s Capitol office without any of the publicity and promotion that usually accompanies groups on gubernatorial missions.

Its members — all opposed to abortion — were recruited not directly by Blunt’s staff, but rather by a pair of anti-abortion activists.

“This is a very informal group of good people who believe in advancing the cause of life and believe that we should minimize the impact of abortion on society,” Blunt said when asked about his new task force during a Capitol news conference called for a different purpose.

Lest there be any confusion: The effect of abortion is not a wide-open question to Blunt. There’s no likelihood, for example, that his new task force will conclude abortion is positive.

I love this quote from Blunt:   “I certainly would begin with the presumption that abortion has a negative impact on Missouri children, Missouri women, Missouri men, because it’s harmful to society,” Blunt said.  It's harmful because it's harmful, don't you get it? 

The AP article points out that, in 1987, then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who strongly opposes abortion rights, failed in his assigned mission (by President Reagan) to find evidence of psychological trauma from abortion.   

Unfortunately, states like Missouri have only gotten encouragement for this kind of biased "research" from the Supreme Court's recent decision in Gonzales v. Carhart.

October 31, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 29, 2007

UK: Experts who testified to MPs failed to reveal abortion links

The Guardian (UK) reports:

Six UK medical experts who submitted scientific evidence to an influential inquiry by MPs into the UK's abortion laws did not reveal links to anti-abortion groups.

Their interests were revealed to the committee of MPs after individuals and organisations submitting evidence were asked to reveal membership of campaigning organisations relevant to the inquiry.

"I think it's probably fair to say that there may have been some attempt to skew the evidence," said Des Turner MP, who is a member of the parliamentary science and technology committee. "I think committee members will be able to see through what's going on."

When asked formally for their affiliations, five individuals submitted responses revealing they are members of the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF), a group with an anti-abortion stance. One other, who did not declare membership of the group, is named as a member on its website. The committee has finished hearing evidence in its inquiry into scientific developments relating to abortion and is compiling its final report.

October 29, 2007 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FDA: CellCept Linked to Birth Defects

Via the Houston Chronicle/AP:

Government health officials warned doctors and patients Monday that a Roche drug used by organ transplant patients can cause miscarriages and birth defects when used in pregnant women.    

Roche's CellCept has shown links to increased miscarriage in the first three months and ear and mouth birth defects in infants, according to a notice posted to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site.

The agency highlights the risks associated with Cellcept in a new boxed warning, the most serious a drug can carry. Updated labeling also stresses that women of childbearing age must use effective contraception while taking the drug. Pregnant women should only use CellCept if they cannot be treated with other immune-system suppressing drugs.

October 29, 2007 in Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Argentina: Recent Court Decision on Abortion

Thanks to Martin Hevia, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Escuela de Derecho, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella at Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the following summary:


In a recent decision based on Section 86 of the Argentine Criminal
Code  which states that abortion is not punishable when the pregnancy is
due to rape or when the health of the pregnant woman is at stake-- the
Supreme Court of the Province of Entre Ríos allowed M.F.C., a 19-year old
girl who had been raped, to get an abortion.

The right to have the abortion had been denied by the inferior court. The
Court of Appeals then rejected the decision of the lower courts and granted
the abortion. The biological father of the girl, though, who had not been
in touch with his daughter for the last 16 years, appealed the decision of
the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of Entre Ríos denied the petition
and upheld the constitutionality of Section 86. It also made it clear that
no judicial authorization is needed in order to perform non-punishable
abortions. According to a local newspaper, the lawyer of the biological
father of “M. F. C.” announced the intention to appeal the decision to the
Supreme Court of Argentina.

The case is interesting for the following reason: a medical committee at
the Hospital Materno Infantil San Roque concluded that the hospital should
not perform the abortion because the health of the mother would be at risk.
However, according to a local newspaper, physicians had alleged
conscientious objection. The Health Minister of the Province of Entre Ríos
said that the Province would guarantee the practice of the abortion.
However, due to shortage of time, the therapeutic abortion was finally
performed in the Province of Buenos Aires  where a protocol regulating
non-punishable abortions had been passed  with the support of the National
Health Ministry.

The Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires confirmed that the physicians
that performed the abortion were threatened and that there was other
evidence of intolerance from some groups.

The case is not yet available online.

Here are some links to Spanish reports in local newspapers:

October 29, 2007 in Abortion, In the Courts, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pope Says Pharmacists Have Right to Refuse to Dispense Emergency Contraception

Via the Associated Press:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that pharmacists have a right to use conscientious objection to avoid dispensing emergency contraception or euthanasia drugs — and told them they should also inform patients of the ethical implications of using such drugs.

Benedict told a gathering of Catholic pharmacists that conscientious objection was a right that must be recognized by the pharmaceutical profession.

And, as always, this important reminder: emergency contraception ("EC") is not the same as the early abortion pill.  Learn more about EC.

October 29, 2007 in Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Graduate Scholarships in Reproductive and Sexual Health Law for Lawyers from Developing Countries

The International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme at the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto, Canada is offering graduate scholarships.

The scholarship, which enables lawyer activists from developing countries to undertake the Master of Laws (LL.M.) Programme at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law, includes full tuition, travel and a stipend for living expenses.

The application deadline is February 1, 2008.

See the brochure for more information.

We would sincerely appreciate it if you could help distribute this
information to outstanding lawyers who are committed to advancing
reproductive and sexual health law in their own developing countries and/or regions.

See abstracts of theses by past graduates.

October 29, 2007 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Georgia S. Ct. Overturns 10-Year Sentence for Teen Sex

Michael Lindenberger reports for Time:

High school homecoming king Genarlow Wilson walked out of prison a free man on Friday, thanks to an extraordinary intervention by the Georgia Supreme Court. In ordering his immediate release, the court ruled that his 10-year prison term ? which allowed no parole and included lifetime registration as a sex offender — was "cruel and unusual."

The decision is a stunning rebuke for prosecutors and the state Legislature. Wilson, now 21, was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with a 15-year-old classmate in 2003. Howard J. Bashman, author of the widely-regarded How Appealing legal blog and one of America's leading appellate lawyers, told TIME the order for Wilson?s release was "very, very unusual." But Bashman added that Wilson's sentence was so outrageous that the most surprising thing about the 4-3 ruling was that it was so close.

Find links to more articles on this story at How Appealing.

October 27, 2007 in In the Courts, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brazil launches program to battle congenital infection of AIDS, syphilis

Via Xinhua/People's Daily:

The Brazilian government on Wednesday launched a program aimed at reducing the congenital transmission of such diseases as AIDS and syphilis.

The Ministry of Health said the government plans to spend 38.8 million reais (21.34 million U.S. dollars) on buying anti-retrovirus drugs, lactation inhibitors, HIV/syphilis tests and infantile formulas in efforts to help pregnant women and their unborn or newly-born children.

October 27, 2007 in International, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 26, 2007

N.J. hails start of construction on stem cell research facility

Via Newsday:

Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Tuesday marked the start of construction on what he hailed as a world-class research facility many hope will make the state a global leader in stem cell work.

"The Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey will serve as the nexus of cutting edge scientific breakthroughs that will improve and save the lives of millions of our fellow citizens," Corzine said in an afternoon ceremony near the construction site.

The $150 million, 18-story tower is to be built on a parking lot in downtown New Brunswick next to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, near Rutgers University, several other schools and hospitals and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

October 26, 2007 in State and Local News, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

UN Report: Condom awareness among Indians high

Via India eNews:

Inm With a huge population of HIV/AIDS patients in the country, condom is no more a taboo word for Indians. A new UN study found that 95 percent of Indian male believe condom can prevent the spread of disease and 70 percent of women know where to get it.

After three years' awareness campaign, jointly organised by UNAIDS and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), a report released Wednesday revealed 'dramatic results in key areas of reproductive health knowledge, HIV awareness and sexual rights'.

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

October 26, 2007 in Contraception, International, Sexuality Education, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Brownback and Giuliani Discuss Abortion

Via the Associated Press:

Sen. Sam Brownback pronounced himself "much more comfortable" with Rudy Giuliani's position on abortion after the one-time rivals for the Republican presidential nomination discussed the issue Thursday.

Giuliani flew to Washington for a meeting he requested with Brownback in the Kansas senator's Capitol Hill office. Brownback dropped out of the race last week, citing poor fundraising, and his former rivals have been seeking his endorsement.

October 25, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abortion as a "Form of Birth Control"

Raphael G. Satter writes in British Lawmaker: Abortions Too Common (London/AP):

The architect of Britain's abortion law said Wednesday that the procedure was too common and some women were using it as a form of birth control.

Lord David Steel, who introduced the 1967 Abortion Act that provided a legal defense to doctors performing the procedure, said that while he was proud of his achievement, too many women were terminating their pregnancies for the wrong reasons.

In an op-ed piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Joan Smith (a reporter for the Independent (UK)), responds:

Women -- I mean, what are we like? Having abortions for totally trivial reasons, like not wanting to be pregnant! You'd think by now we'd have got it into our heads that abortions are only for women who really deserve them, which basically means anyone who has been raped (though not according to the Vatican) or can show that they're really, really upset.

What does it mean to use abortion as  "form of birth control" anyway?  I assume that, when people say this, they envision a woman who routinely has unprotected sex knowing she doesn't want to have a child, and who then resorts to an abortion should she become pregnant.  (Of course, the accusation wholly ignores the responsibility of the male partner, who presumably also "uses abortion as a form of birth control" by failing to use a condom.)

But before hurling the old "abortion as birth control" accusation, it's important to be aware of the facts.  Women are at risk of pregnancy for over three decades of their lives, and they spend most of this time trying to avoid becoming pregnant. 

So why do women end up needing abortions?  My hunch is that most women (1) use contraception, but do so imperfectly; (2) practice abstinence, but do so imperfectly; or (3) some combination of (1) and (2).  Indeed, in busting the myth that "women are using abortion as birth control," the Guttmacher Institute points out:

[H]alf of all women getting abortions report that contraception was used during the month they became pregnant. Some of these couples had used the method improperly; some had forgotten or neglected to use it on the particular occasion they conceived; and some had used a contraceptive that failed. No contraceptive method prevents pregnancy 100% of the time.

If abortion were used as a primary method of birth control, a typical woman would have at least two or three pregnancies per year -- 30 or more during her lifetime.

In fact, most women who have abortions have had no previous abortions (52%) or only one previous abortion (26%). Considering that most women are fertile for over 30 years, and that birth control is not perfect, the likelihood of having one or two unintended pregnancies is very high.

Do you know any woman who has had thirty abortions?  Neither do I.

October 25, 2007 in Abortion, Contraception, International, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

George Washington Law Review Symposium: Conflicting Interests in Reproductive Autonomy


Friday, November 2, 2007

George Washington University Law School
Jacob Burns Moot Court Room, Lerner Hall
2000 H Street, N.W. | Washington, DC

The registration deadline is Monday, October 29. Registered guests will be invited to join us for breakfast, lunch, and an evening reception.

The 2007 George Washington Law Review Symposium focuses on the legal and moral issues arising out of the regulation of new reproductive technologies. The proliferation of technologies such as in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, and genetic enhancement tests the boundaries between the societal benefits of and autonomy interests in accessing these technologies and the state’s right to regulate, even prohibit, them. These boundaries are unclear, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s increasing deference to the state’s interest in protecting potential life as clarified in the recent decision of Gonzales v. Carhart.The four panels of the Symposium will bring together leading legal scholars in reproductive rights and constitutional law, sociological researchers, and representatives of the medical community, think tanks, and the President’s Council on Bioethics to discuss these issues.


The Personal Right: Privacy, Property, or Child?

The State's Interest: The Implications of Gonzales v. Carhart and Other Recent Cases

Issues of Access to Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Dialogue: A Method for Reconciling Conflicting Views in Reproductive Technology

See full agenda and register online at:

October 24, 2007 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Gonzales v. Carhart, Law School, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nigeria: Unsafe Abortion - Need to Find Lasting Solution


Imagine a gang of armed robbers held you at gunpoint while your wife or daughter is being gang-raped in your home. About a month later, the rape victim tells you she is pregnant.

You are thus confronted with several difficult questions. What would you do? Keep the pregnancy? Abort it? Have the baby and keep it or give it up for adoption?


This scenario played out recently at a media workshop on female reproductive health and rights. Abortion has become a highly contentious issue in Nigeria. The pro-life and pro-choice have their strong points.

But the fact remains that abortion is subsumed under the wider subject of female reproductive health and rights. The pro-choice have called for a review of Nigeria's abortion law. They say that the law does not allow women to decide what to do with a pregnancy. On the other hand, the pro-life group wants the law to remain. They reason that abortion is ungodly, immoral and culturally and traditionally unacceptable.

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

Senate Rejects Proposal to Cut Family Planning Funding for Clinics that Also Provide Abortion

Via the Associated Press (10/19):

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate blocked a bid by anti-abortion forces Thursday to cut off money for clinics that provide family planning and other health services in addition to abortions.

By a 52-41 vote, the Senate rejected a proposal by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to stop funding health clinics, Planned Parenthood and other providers of reproductive health services if they use money from nonfederal sources to perform abortions.

The issue arose during the Senate's second day of debate on a health and education spending bill that finances hundreds of programs, including one dealing with federal family planning efforts.

Vitter said that because since so many people in the U.S. oppose abortion, it is "a very reasonable mainstream policy to say, 'We're not going to support groups that perform abortions.'"

Continue reading

October 23, 2007 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Edward Hartnett on Catholic Judges

Hartnett Edward Harnett (Seton Hall Law School) has posted Catholic Judges and Cooperation in Sin on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

For the first time in its history, the Supreme Court of the United States has a majority of Catholics. Yet there are a host of areas where Catholic teaching and American law are at variance. Some worry that Catholic judges will not be faithful to the law, while others worry that Catholic judges will not be faithful to the Church's teaching. Catholic Judges should be concerned with their faithfulness both to the law and to their informed consciences.

This paper explores the basic tool that Catholic moral theology offers to handle situations where a judge's moral views and legal interpretation conflict - the doctrine of cooperation - and applies that tool in several particular circumstances. It also discusses what a judge should do if confronted with a case in which the law require morally impermissible cooperation in sin. It makes suggestions aimed at (1) those who worry that Catholic judges will not be faithful to the law; (2) those who worry that Catholic judges will not be faithful to the Church; and (3) Catholic judges themselves.

October 23, 2007 in Scholarship and Research, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Upcoming FOX News Documentary on Abortion

On October 27, FOX News will air a documentary that "profiles three women to explore the abortion issue by following their agonizing decisions to have their babies or terminate their pregnancies.According to FOX News, "[the] documentary ... does not touch at all on the political debate or legal analysis surrounding abortion."  It's hard to imagine FOX presenting the issue in a balanced way, but we'll see. 

While I have no doubt that some women agonize over their decisions for purely personal reasons, surely it cannot help that society stands so ready to accuse women seeking abortion of irresponsibility or selfishness.  When watching a film like this, it's important to remember that, at current rates, more than one third of women in the U.S. will have had an abortion by age 45.  And that number would not be less if abortion were made illegal.  See this post for more on that.  If we want women to stop agonizing over abortion we should do two things: (1) work harder on preventing unintended pregnancy; (2) stop stigmatizing abortion.

October 22, 2007 in Abortion, Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Book Review: "Virgins: A Cultural History"

Stephen Phelan reviews "Virgins: A Cultural History" for the Sunday Herald (Scotland):

There was a time when people believed that only a virgin - and only females were considered true virgins - could coax a unicorn out of hiding. Like most other folk tales, that legend can now be easily re-read in Freudian terms. Seven centuries of secular thought and medical science have discounted, if not discredited, the idea that sexual inexperience is a source of spiritual power, along with any number of pseudo-biological theories as to how maidenhood manifests itself physically. But virginity has not yet been demythologised. A few still believe in unicorns. Almost everyone still believes in virginity, which is elusive in its own way. "If someone asks you what it means to be a virgin," says Anke Bernau, author of the newly published Virgins: A Cultural History, "or what it means to lose that virginity, you might start by saying, Of course, we all know what it is', or Of course, it's not important any more'. But the more you think about it, the less certain you become about defining it. Virginity is still important to people, but they don't actually know what it is." Bernau is speaking from experience as a professor of mediaeval literature at Manchester University, where her students consistently choose to write papers on such subjects as Joan of Arc and the sexual politics of the 15th century. Their assumptions, and her own research, led Bernau "into thinking about how the modern world regards the mediaeval in general". "Ideas of contemporary virginity," she says, "especially all this talk of abstinence education and chastity movements, made me interested in how scholars from other periods thought and wrote about it. How does the idea of a virgin saint make sense today?"

For another recent book on the history of virginity, see this post: Hanne Blank's "Virgin: The Untouched History".

October 22, 2007 in Culture, Scholarship and Research, Sexuality, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Man pleads guilty in Texas abortion clinic bomb case

Via the Associated Press (10/19/2007):

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison Friday for attempting to use an explosive at an Austin clinic that performs abortions.

Paul Ross Evans was arrested in April after a makeshift bomb was found in the parking lot of the Austin Women's Health Center. A bomb squad disposed of the incendiary device, which contained two pounds of nails. There were no injuries.

He pleaded guilty to attempted use of a destructive device.

Evans said that on April 24 he bought materials for the bomb at a hardware store in Lufkin and at another store in Austin. The next day, he placed the bomb in the parking lot near the women's clinic entrance and activated the timer.

October 22, 2007 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)