Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sonia Katyal on Gender and Sexuality

Skatyal Sonia Katyal (Fordham University School of Law) has posted The Intellectual Commons of Gender on SSRN.   Here is the abstract:

Last fall, in a flurry of media attention, New York City's Board of Health took the unprecedented and frankly courageous step of validating what the transgender community had argued for years: that individuals can and should have the right to change the sex on their birth certificates without explicitly requiring them to undergo a particular type of sex reassignment surgery. Under the rule change initially explored by the Board, individuals would have been able to change the sex on their birth certificates, so long as they provided affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional outlining the reasons for the change and their intention to live permanently as members of the opposite sex. At the time of their announcement, the decision was met with enormous praise from transgender rights advocates, who felt that the proposed rule confirmed the possibility of correcting a perceived disjunction between one's anatomical sex and one's gender identity without the need for prohibitively expensive (and often medically unsafe) sex reassignment surgery.

Instead, the proposed rule recognized the panoply of other ways in which individuals both transform and cross the boundaries of anatomical sex, through hormone treatments, cosmetic surgery, and other forms of medical intervention. Yet, just as public health advocates were nearing victory, the Board abruptly backpedaled on its decision, citing "broader societal implications," and decided to quickly abandon consideration of the proposed rule, much to the consternation of advocates who had worked on behalf of the transgender community for years.

Continue reading

October 21, 2007 in Scholarship and Research, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abstinence 1, S-Chip 0

Amanda Robb, Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times, writes:

DEMOCRATIC leaders are right to contest President Bush’s veto of their bill to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance program. But sadly, their “bipartisan compromise” will leave millions of young Americans vulnerable to sickness and suffering of the most preventable kind. To entice Republicans to support the bill, the House of Representatives agreed to increase money for abstinence-only sex education by $28 million, to a total of about $200 million a year. Abstinence-only courses, the only form of federally financed sex ed, teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to cause psychological and physical harm.

If that were true, our health care system would be not only broken, but besieged. A 2002 survey found that 93 percent of American adults had had premarital sex by the age of 30.

In addition to provoking shame about a nearly universal activity, abstinence-only sex education is ineffective and dangerous. Last April, a 10-year study found that students who took abstinence-only courses were no more likely to abstain from sex than other students. Previous studies revealed that abstinence-only students avoid using contraception.

October 21, 2007 in Congress, Contraception, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexuality Education, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More Song Lyrics: What's Up with Leonard Cohen and Abortion?

I love Leonard Cohen's music and poetry, but I've always wondered, is he anti-choice?  Or does he just have personal moral qualms about abortion, while perhaps not opposing abortion rights?  In a few of Cohen's songs, he uses rhetoric typically employed by opponents of the right to abortion.  This rhetoric equates "children" and "fetuses" in a way that I have suggested is inconsistent with most people's ultimate positions on abortion (even those of conservatives) and that has helped to fuel a climate of extreme hostility and violence against abortion providers. (See my comments on rhetoric here; see also this post on a video of abortion demonstrators that neatly demonstrates the inconsistencies I'm talking about.) 

One glaring example of Cohen's troubling rhetoric is in The Future, where Cohen sings:

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder

And in the gorgeous Dance Me to the End of Love, he invokes "the children who are asking to be born":

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love 

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love....

David Whiteis, in a thoughtful 1997 review, discusses "The Future," as well as other Leonard Cohen songs that reference abortion, noting Cohen's "apparent indictment of abortion as a symptom of social decay."  Whiteis also writes more generally about the problematic treatment of women in Cohen's music.

Here's more on Leonard Cohen.  On a totally unrelated (and lighter) note, if you are a Leonard Cohen fan and ever have an opportunity to hear the Austin Lounge Lizards parody him, don't pass it up.

You can find more song lyrics about abortion and unintended pregnancy by searching "song lyrics" on this blog.

October 20, 2007 in Abortion, Culture, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Britain worst for teenage pregnancy

Via the Telegraph (UK):

Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, according to a worldwide report into sexual and reproductive health risks to women.

The authors of the report A Measure of Survival: Calculating Women's Sexual and Reproductive Risk warned that teenagers, whose pregnancies were often unplanned, run a higher risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

The report also found that while Britain was one of the safest countries for pregnancy and childbirth, it was still only 19th safest - behind countries including Croatia, Cuba and the Czech Republic.

October 20, 2007 in International, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Andrew Koppelman on Phyllis Schlafly and Pornography

Koppelan Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) has posted Why Phyllis Schlafly is Right (But is Wrong) About Pornography on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Phyllis Schlafly's preeminent concern is to preserve a pattern of gender-specific roles and relations that, she thinks, have helped protect women and children from desertion and abuse. She wants to suppress pornography because it helps to reinforce a vernacular masculine culture that is indifferent or hostile to the needs of women and children. Schlafly's worries about this culture are legitimate and valid. But the suppression of pornography is the wrong solution to the problem, because no workable legal rule can properly delimit the material that concerns her. The antecedents of Schlafly's views on gender, in Rousseau's political theory and the nineteenth century ideology of domesticity, and their contemporary applicability are examined.

October 20, 2007 in Culture, Scholarship and Research, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Bush Appointee to Lead Title X Family Planning Program Opposed Contraceptive Coverage

Steph Sterling of the National Women's Law Center, writes for Womenstake:

Last month, we wrote about the Family Research Council’s decision to oppose the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, in part because it gives states the option of providing "family planning services" to low-income women. Why, you ask, are "family planning services" in quotation marks? Ask the Family Research Council. We don’t know why, but their action alert refuses to use the term without them.

Now, it looks like a Family Research Council alumna is going to make good use of quotation marks. We’ve gotten word from our friends at the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association that Dr. Susan Orr, former Senior Director for Marriage and Family Care at the Family Research Council, has just been tapped to oversee the Title X “family planning” program. The Title X program is a critical part of our country’s health care safety net for low-income women, providing contraceptive care and other preventive health services to more than 5 million women each year.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Bush Administration has chosen yet another person who opposes birth control to run it. Dr. Orr cheered when the Bush Administration tried to eliminate contraceptive coverage guarantees for federal employees, and used to work for Wade Horn, the Administration’s point man on abstinence-only programs that promote gender stereotypes and censor information about contraceptives. She even opposed the District of Columbia's contraceptive equity bill that would have ensured that women with private health insurance had equal coverage of prescription contraceptives. "Family planning" indeed.

For more on Dr. Orr and the Family Research Council, see "RealTime: Contraception Foe to Head Population Affairs" (RH Reality Check).
Planned Parenthood has a petition opposing the appointment of Dr. Orr.

October 20, 2007 in Anti-Choice Movement, Fertility, Medical News, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality, Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Groups Object to Weakened Version of Employment Non-Discrimination Act

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the Transgender Law Center have this to say about the current version of ENDA:

“Definitions of who is protected by the bill leave gaping loopholes so that no one will be fully protected against discrimination. Congress should finish the work it began 44 years ago when it made employment discrimination based on sex illegal, and once and for all rid the workplace of sexual stereotypes.”

The groups issued a statement explaining why they do not support a version of ENDA that covers sexual orientation but not gender identity.  They urge action to ensure that the final version fully protects gender identity:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)(HR 3685) is to be considered in the House in the coming weeks.  The bill as originally introduced in this Congress included protections against discrimination based on gender identity.  During "mark-up" the bill was altered ina number of ways, one of which was to remove the gender identity protections. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement urging Congress to retain the original language. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights also supports the original version.

Take action today! Contact your representatives to encourage them to support the original version of the bill, not the weakened version,  by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s office. If you do not know who your representative is, give them your zip code, and they will tell you your representative's name before transferring you.

October 20, 2007 in Congress, Politics, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Catherine Roraback, Lawyer in Griswold v. Connecticut, Dies at 87

Via the New York Times:

Catherine Roraback, a lawyer who pressed the Connecticut case that eventually led the United States Supreme Court to rule that laws banning the use of contraceptives were unconstitutional, a precursor to its Roe v. Wade decision on abortions, died on Wednesday in Salisbury, Conn. She was 87.

Her death was confirmed by a cousin, Andrew Roraback.

Ms. Roraback was the lead lawyer in several other controversial cases in her 50-year career, including the 1971 trial of the Black Panther leader Bobby Seale in the killing of another party member.

In the early 1960s, Ms. Roraback represented Estelle Griswold, then the executive director of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut, and Dr. Charles Buxton, the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University’s School of Medicine, as their case rose through the state courts.

In 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses the right of married couples to use contraception.  In 1972, this right was extended to unmarried persons in Eisenstadt v. Baird.  One year later, the Court decided Roe v. Wade

Read more about Catherine Roraback at the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame website.

October 20, 2007 in Contraception, Miscellaneous, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Slain pregnant woman refused to have abortion

The Winnipeg Free Press reports:

WINNIPEG - A pregnant woman was brutally beaten to death and buried in a snowbank because she refused to have an abortion, the Winnipeg Free Press has learned.

The motive behind the February killing has emerged for the first time, now that a 17-year-old man has cut a deal with Manitoba justice officials to plead guilty to first-degree murder.

"Those are the facts we will be advancing," Crown attorney Brent Davidson said Wednesday, adding it's one of the more disturbing cases his office has seen.

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

Maine Middle School to Offer the Pill

Via the Associated Press:

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Pupils at a city middle school will be able to get birth control pills and patches at their student health center after the local school board approved the proposal Wednesday evening.

The plan, offered by city health officials, makes King Middle School the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available to students in grades 6 through 8, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

There are no national figures on how many middle schools, where most students range in age from 11 to 13, provide such services. "It's very rare that middle schools do this," said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.

The Portland School Committee voted 7-2 for the measure.

October 18, 2007 in Contraception, State and Local News, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TX Gov. Perry backs Giuliani, disappointing conservatives

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Conservatives and gun rights advocates in Texas said they are disappointed and mystified by Gov. Rick Perry's endorsement Wednesday of GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

Perry endorsed Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, at an economic conference of the Club For Growth, a conservative advocacy group. Unlike Perry, Giuliani has favored abortion rights and gun control.

October 18, 2007 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nova Scotia: Anti-abortion crusader to be sworn in as judge


OTTAWA – Opposition justice critics say the swearing in next week of a former Tory MP and anti-abortion crusader is proof the federal Conservatives want to stack the courts with right-wing friends.  Lawrence O'Neil, an MP from 1984 to 1988, is to be sworn in Tuesday to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

The official Hansard transcripts of proceedings ... quote O'Neil as saying on July 27, 1988: "It appears that there is widespread acceptance of the notion that a mother should have the right to control her body. There is no such right."

In 1985, O'Neil moved to introduce a bill to amend the Criminal Code to require that every unborn child be represented by legal counsel at therapeutic abortion committees across the country.

October 18, 2007 in Abortion, In the Courts, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abortion Charges Filed Against Kansas Clinic

Kansas county prosecutor Phill Kline is at it again.  Via the New York Times:

A county prosecutor in Kansas who waged a vociferous battle against abortion in his former role as the state’s attorney general filed dozens of felony and misdemeanor charges yesterday against a Planned Parenthood clinic, saying the facility provided illegal late-term abortions, among other crimes.

The prosecutor, Phill Kline, now the Johnson County district attorney, has a history of wrangling with the clinic, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. When he was the state attorney general, from 2002 until last year, Mr. Kline, a conservative Republican, developed a reputation for challenging abortion providers.

In a suit that brought national attention to Kansas as a battleground for abortion rights, Mr. Kline sought the names and personal information of women and girls who had had abortions at the Planned Parenthood clinic and one other medical facility. Early last year, the State Supreme Court restricted the investigation, ruling that personal information must be removed from the records Mr. Kline sought. Mr. Kline’s effort to prosecute the clinics ultimately failed....

Ashley Anstaett, a spokeswoman for the current state attorney general, Paul Morrison, told The Associated Press that Mr. Morrison had already reviewed the accusations Mr. Kline’s criminal charges are based on and found no wrongdoing.

“We are skeptical that these charges have any merit, and we continue to wonder how much politics influenced Mr. Kline’s decision to file these charges,” Ms. Anstaett said.

October 18, 2007 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

N.J. voters to decide spending $450M on stem cell work


Scott Simpkins broke a vertebra in a biking accident in Colorado in late August 2000, leaving him paralyzed. His nephew was born two weeks later. A niece has since arrived, too.

"To them Uncle Scott always sits in a chair," the wheelchair-bound Williamstown resident said. "They don't know the real me, and that just breaks my heart."

The 36-year-old has hope they might see him walk again someday. And he hopes New Jersey voters will decide on Nov. 6 to approve borrowing $450 million to pay for stem cell research in the Garden State for 10 years....

If approved by voters, the borrowing would make New Jersey second only to California in public money devoted to stem cell research.

October 17, 2007 in State and Local News, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nominated: Best New York-Based Blawger

I have been nominated for "best New York-based blawger" in a contest by Sui Generis, a New York law blog.  The contest is being held via an on-line poll that runs until midnight on Wednesday, October 24.  If you like this blog, I hope you'll cast your vote for me.

October 17, 2007 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Czech Court Awards Compensation to Romani Woman For Forced Sterilization

Via AP/International Tribune:

Czech_republicsA Czech court ruled Friday that a hospital must pay 500,000 koruna (€18,200; US$25,800) in compensation for sterilizing a Gypsy woman 10 years ago without her consent, a lawyer for the woman said.

Complaints about the practice have been heard many times. But the lawyer, Michaela Kopalova, said this marked the first time a Gypsy woman in the Czech Republic had been compensated for such a claim....

Cervenakova, 31, was sterilized after giving birth to her second daughter by Caesarean section. Kopalova also represents two other Gypsy women who are seeking damages from hospitals, claiming to have been illegally sterilized. provides more information on the plaintiff's case:

On 7 July 1997 Ms Cervenakova ... gave birth by Caesarian section to her second child, Kristýna. She was sterilized during the same operation. Even though it was known in advance that she would have to give birth by Caesarian, the doctors did not follow the legal process for acquiring her consent to the sterilization. The doctors did not ask for her "consent" until Ms Cervenakova was under the influence of anaesthesia. At the time of surgery she was 19 years old. "I didn't even know what it meant," Cervenakova told ČTK today. ...  Červeňáková says that for seven years she was under the impression that she had merely been given an IUD.

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

October 17, 2007 in International, Sterilization | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYT: Sex-Ed Teacher Meets an Evangelical? Brace for a Culture War

Michiko Kakutani reviews "The Abstinence Teacher" for the New York Times:

After meeting Tim, a former rock musician turned born-again evangelical, Ruth, a liberal-minded sex education teacher at the local high school, thinks: “She’d secretly been hoping to find herself enmeshed in one of those corny ‘opposites attract’ narratives that were so appealing to writers of sitcoms and romantic comedies. The formula was simple: You brought together a man and a woman who held wildly divergent worldviews — an idealistic doctor, say, and an ambulance-chasing lawyer — and waited for them to realize that their witty intellectual combat was nothing but a smoke screen, kicked up to conceal the inconvenient and increasingly obvious fact that they were desperate to hop into bed with each other.”

This, of course, is exactly what happens in Tom Perrotta’s new novel, “The Abstinence Teacher.” Ruth, a divorced mother who has come under criticism from the Tabernacle, the new evangelical church in town, for talking frankly about sex and contraception in class, does indeed find herself becoming smitten with Tim, who is not only her daughter’s soccer coach but also a gung-ho member of that very church, which wants to replace Ruth’s curriculum with a new program that preaches sexual abstinence....

See also this review in USA Today: Sexy, satirical 'Abstinence Teacher' is pure fun.

October 17, 2007 in Culture, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"When Does Pregnancy Begin?: A Federal Appeals Court Decision Implicates a New Abortion Question"


Sherry F. Colb (Rutgers--Newark) writes on Findlaw:

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit dismissed a federal lawsuit brought by the parents of a 16-year-old girl, on their own and on their daughter's behalf, against the city of Philadelphia and its agents, including a health center operated by the city's Department of Health. The plaintiffs in Anspach v. City of Philadelphia alleged that at the girl's request, the health center gave her a "morning after" pill, but without notifying her parents and without informing her that the medication could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting inside her uterus. Her parents contend that this information would have been of great significance to all three of them, because the prevention of implantation constitutes an abortion according to their religious beliefs.

As I will explain, this case was rightly dismissed. It nonetheless raises a question of potentially great significance: When does pregnancy begin? The answer to this question will determine whether courts should classify the morning-after-pill as preventing, or as terminating, a pregnancy. Moreover, to the extent that the U.S. Supreme Court has become more receptive to government restrictions of abortion, the official point at which pregnancy begins could prove crucial in defining the scope of women's continuing reproductive autonomy.

October 16, 2007 in Abortion, Bioethics, Contraception, In the Courts, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abstinence Education: Not Just For the Goyim?

Marissa Brostoff writes for New Voices, National Jewish Student Magazine:    

Q: Is there a Jewish pro-abstinence movement? 

A: Lenny Bruce once divided the world into things that are Jewish and things that are goyish. Black cherry soda, Ray Charles, and Hadassah are Jewish; Kool-Aid, the Marine Corps, and B'nai Brith are goyish. These distinctions, of course, are not exactly etched into Moses' tablets. But they create a semiotic code that ties together Jews in New York (Jewish) and North Dakota (goyish).

Like tent revivals and faith-infused rock and roll, there is something distinctly Not Jewish about abstinence education programs, which tend to be sponsored by evangelical Christian groups like True Love Waits. These programs typically encourage teens to practice abstinence through a mixture of religious teachings and semi-scientific studies that caution against birth control measures. According to a growing number of reports, they have not been demonstrably effective in preventing teenagers from having sex. And yet, as these programs come under increasing scrutiny, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), the youth group affiliated with the Orthodox Union (OU), has started an abstinence campaign of its own.

October 16, 2007 in Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

News coverage of Female Genital Mutilation

"Kenya: Woman Quits Job to Wage War Against the Cut,", via

She quit her job as a primary school teacher to save girls in her community from early marriages.

Hurt by an alarming rate of young girls dropping out of school after forced circumcision, Rose Chepchumba Kilimo, 46, one day woke up early - and decided she won't report on duty. That was 2003.

She instead decided to embark on a mission of educating communities in Kerio on the importance of educating their daughters....

And three years after she started Chetastai Girls' project - using her own money - to advocate against female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage, members of Marakwet, Tugen, Pokot and Ilchambus communities are reaping the fruits of what they had hitherto dismissed as a waste of time.

Even the death of her husband, through a road accident at more or less the same period her organisation was started, could stop the former Tot Primary School teacher from soldiering on with a voluntary work.

Many girls who had dropped out of school have since trooped back to pursue their academic dreams.

"21,000 girls at risk of genital mutilation, say campaigners," by Rachel Williams for the Guardian:

More than 21,000 girls under 15 in England and Wales are estimated to be at serious risk of being forced into genital mutilation and a further 11,000 over-eights are highly likely already to have been subjected to the practice, according to research. Parents and guardians in African immigrant communities are thought to be taking their children abroad for female gential mutilation (FGM), but so called "excisors" are also said to be operating in Britain.

Around 66,000 women and girls in England and Wales may have undergone the procedure, in which part or all of their genitalia is cut off and stitched up, without anaesthetic, the campaigning group Forward said yesterday.
Its study, funded by the Department of Health, also found the number of children born to women with FGM rose from an estimated 6,000 in 2001 to a likely figure of 9,000 in 2004.


October 16, 2007 in International, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)