Tuesday, September 30, 2008
As she did when discussing her own daughter Bristol's decision to carry her pregnancy to term, Governor Palin often talks about abortion in a way that suggests that, although she is personally opposed to abortion, she views the decision as a personal choice. This is misleading given her position opposing abortion "with the exception of a doctor’s determination that the mother’s life would end if the pregnancy continued." Moreover, while Palin also talks about same-sex relationships in a non-judgmental way, she has said that "I believe that marriage should only be between and man and a woman."
Monday, September 29, 2008
The American Cancer Society reports:
It has been suggested that talcum powder may be carcinogenic to the covering layer of the ovaries through the migration of talcum powder particles (applied to the genital area, sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary. Several epidemiologic studies have examined the relationship between talcum powder and cancer of the ovary. Findings are mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no association....
A meta-analysis which reanalyzed data from 16 studies published prior to 2003 found a 33% increase in ovarian risk among talc users. However, women with the highest exposure were at no greater risk than those with lower exposure, leading the researchers to question whether the association they observed was truly valid.
The most recent study of this subject found an overall 37% increased risk among talc users. It was interesting that the risk from talc use increased by 54% among women who had not had a tubal ligation (had their tubes “tied”) to prevent pregnancy, whereas talc had no impact on women whose tubes had been tied. Because tubal ligation is expected to block external carcinogens from reaching the ovaries via the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes, this finding provides some support for the idea that talc is a carcinogen.
Sarah Valentine (CUNY School of Law) has posted Queer Kids: A Comprehensive Annotated Legal Bibliography on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This annotated bibliography is published at 19 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 449 (2008). It is a comprehensive collection of law review articles, and selected other materials, relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth. These "queer kids" - minors between the ages of ten and twenty who are perceived as being gender or sexuality nonconforming - are the most endangered and underserved adolescent population in the United States. They face danger in their homes, schools, and the juvenile justice system. Their ability to protect themselves is compromised by discrimination and by their status as minors. Intended as a resource for scholars, policymakers, and practitioners, this bibliography collects, discusses, and organizes legal scholarship, selected reports and studies, and influential personal narratives from queer kids.
Friday, September 26, 2008
San Diego Union-Tribune: Third abortion initiative given chance of passing, by John Marelius:
A twice-defeated initiative requiring parental notification before an unmarried minor can get an abortion appears to have a better chance of passing this year, according to a new Field Poll.
Nearly half of the voters considered likely to cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election – 49 percent – say they intend to vote yes on Proposition 4, compared with 41 percent who say they plan to vote no. The remaining 10 percent are undecided.
The Australian: Abortion ordered for 12-year-old girl by Queensland Supreme Court, by Michael McKenna:
In a landmark decision, Supreme Court judge Margaret Wilson ordered the termination after accepting medical advice that the continuation of the pregnancy posed serious dangers to the mental health and wellbeing of the girl, whose intellectual age was deemed by an obstetrician to be that of a six-year-old....
In Queensland, it is illegal for doctors to carry out an abortion unless it is performed to save a woman's life. It is also believed to be the first time that a Queensland court has ordered the use of the drug misoprostol in a sanctioned abortion.
Courts have been quite consistent in allowing ex-partners in marriages or similar relationships, usually men, to veto the other partner's reproductive use of jointly-created IVF embryos. This supports the principle of voluntary parenthood. In contrast, child custody disputes following surrogate motherhood may favor the commissioning couple or the surrogate. Decisive are the best interests of the child, which a court may find favorable to the former or the latter, or custody shared between them. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) may be restricted by governmental licensing regulations, and raises concerns about diagnosis showing noninheritance of a feared disorder, but not other conditions harming a subsequently born child. Travel abroad raises concerns of legality. Some countries explicitly allow nationals to go to other countries for services legally barred in their own, but others would bind nationals by their prohibitive laws if they were to receive, or counsel, services abroad that are lawful where delivered.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
LA Times: The 'why' behind new abortion stats, by Shari Roan:
Abortion rates in the United States have declined to their lowest levels since 1974, according to a report released today. However, Latina and black women obtain abortions at rates three and five times higher, respectively, than white women -- a reflection of income, according to the authors of the report from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that conducts research, policy analysis and public education of sexual and reproductive health issues.
A major factor influencing abortion rates, said the authors of the report, is access to affordable contraception and improved contraceptive technology.
See also Time: Abortion Rate Falls, But Not For All Women
Saturday, September 20, 2008
NY Times Op-Ed: Blocking Care for Women, by Hillary Rodham Clinton & Cecile Richards:
LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.
Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.
Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.
Issues of concern to pregnant and birthing women have often been missing from discussion in law school courses and among reproductive rights activists. Thanks in large part to public education efforts by writers, filmmakers, and community activists, there is an unprecedented amount of attention and momentum surrounding the rights of pregnant and birthing women. To advance these efforts further, NAPW has developed two writing contests. NAPW and numerous Co-Sponsors and Supporters (to be announced) hope that these contests will leverage the enthusiasm and creativity of a new generation of feminist legal scholars and spark critical thinking about the need to address childbirth and birthing rights as constitutional and human rights issues.
The first contest asks for a critical analysis of the absence of birthing rights issues from gender discrimination and feminist jurisprudence textbooks and curricula (in fact, none of the top three casebooks used in law school courses dedicated to gender and the law address the issue of childbirth or midwifery). The second contest asks students to develop legal theories that can be used to challenge policies banning pregnant women from having a vaginal birth after a prior caesarean section (VBAC). This topic will encourage students to address a growing problem that has received very little attention from the feminist legal community both in academia and within the leading women's rights legal advocacy organizations.
The deadline is May 31, 2009. Click here for more information and submission guidelines.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Via the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog:
The title of this post is the title of this alternative sentencing story out of Texas. Here are some of the basic details:
A judge in Travis County has ordered a woman to stop having children as a condition of her probation in her case of injury to a child by omission, an extraordinary measure that legal experts say could be unconstitutional.
The order was for Felicia Salazar, 20, who admitted to failing to provide protection and medical care to her then-19-month-old daughter last year. The girl suffered broken bones and other injuries when she was beaten by her father, Roberto Alvarado, 25, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Alvarado and Salazar relinquished their parental rights, and the child, who has recovered, was placed in foster care.
On Sept. 5, state District Judge Charlie Baird sentenced Salazar, who had no criminal history, to 10 years of probation after she reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. In Texas, judges set conditions of probation. In addition to requiring Salazar to perform 100 hours of community service and to undergo a mental health assessment and setting other typical conditions, Baird told Salazar not to have any more children....
The article goes on to nicely review the constitutional questions that this condition of probation presents, with the help of a few law professors....
(H/T: Amy Leipziger)
This issue is not new. Trial judges have continued to impose restrictions on procreation as conditions of sentencing or probation, despite the Supreme Court's 1942 decision in Skinner v. Oklahoma. For more on the issue, see this factsheet from National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This call for papers seeks submissions for the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Second Annual Feminist Legal Theory Conference. The conference will be held at the University of Baltimore
on Friday, March 6, 2009. The conference will bring together law students, legal academics, practitioners and activists to explore the concrete ways in which feminist legal theory is (or is not) changing the law.
Abstracts for the papers should be sent by October 17, 2008 to Leigh Goodmark (firstname.lastname@example.org). Abstracts should be no longer than one page. Abstracts for the papers selected to be presented at the conference will be posted on the website and distributed to all presenters and attendees. Working drafts of papers are due no later than February 13, 2009. The working drafts will be posted on the conference website to be shared with other participants and attendees. Materials from last year’s conference can be viewed on our website at http://law.ubalt.edu/femconf/. Finally, please note that a limited amount of money may be available to presenters for travel expenses.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
NY Times: Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes, by David Kirkpatrick:
...A struggle within the church over how Catholic voters should think about abortion is once again flaring up just as political partisans prepare an all-out battle for the votes of Mass-going Catholics in swing-state towns like Scranton.
The theological dispute is playing out in diocesan newspapers and weekly homilies, while the campaigns scramble to set up phone banks of nuns and private meetings with influential bishops.
Progressive Catholics complain that by wading into the history of church opposition to abortion — Mr. Biden brought up St. Thomas Aquinas, Ms. Pelosi discussed St. Augustine — Democratic officials are starting a distracting debate with the church hierarchy.
In our conception of law we have largely presumed the process by which the people whose behavior the law is meant to regulate come to be present and susceptible to the law's influence. As a result that process is largely outside of our account of the law, and any role the law might have over the matter is relatively ignored. This essay introduces a simple and concrete conceptual device, a form of law called antecedent law, that seeks to undue this presumption and refocus our attention on that which determines the presence of persons in the polity and their susceptibility to law. This essay introduces the form antecedent law, describes its role in recreating the polity, begins to identify and advocate for a substantive content for the form - namely that which maximizes what Joseph Raz has called valuable autonomy, and finally touches on three potential counterarguments which would reject the form and its contents. In less abstract terms this essay invites us to change the way we think about seemingly disparate issues like procreation, immigration, and education, their relation to law, and the common and uniquely compelling interests we and future generations have in them.
Naomi Cahn (George Washington University Law School) has posted Accidental Incest: Drawing the Line - Or the Curtain? - For Reproductive Technology on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article calls for setting limits on the number of offspring born from any one individual's gametes, and for continuing to sanction incest, even when it comes to adult, inter-sibling consensual behaviour. The article examines the issues of inadvertent consanguinity raised by third-party gamete use through a feminist lens on both incest and reproductive technology. The central questions concern regulation of reproductive technology, such as whether legal restrictions on the fertility market might diminish the possibilities of accidental incest, as well as whether criminal and civil sanctions of intrafamilial sexual behavior should apply to relationships created through reproductive technology; these, in turn, require examinations of the fertility business itself as well as broader justifications for incest prohibitions.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
NY Times: Interest Groups Step Up Efforts in a Tight Race, by Jim Rutenberg & Michael Luo:
WASHINGTON — After largely staying on the sidelines, the types of independent groups that so affected the 2004 presidential campaign are flooding back as players in the final sprint to the election this fall, financing provocative messages on television, in mailboxes and through the Internet....
An anti-abortion group, BornAliveTruth.org, announced Monday it would begin running an advertisement against Mr. Obama in New Mexico and Ohio that features a woman who survived a botched abortion.
See also: Associated Press: Independent ads target Obama on taxes, abortion.
Here is the Obama campaign's response to these persistent accusations from anti-choice groups regarding Obama's votes on "Born Alive" legislation in Illinois: The Truth Behind False, Outrageous Lies about Obama and ''Born Alive'' Legislation.
And here is an RH Reality Check post on the same issue, with more links: Far Right's 'Born Alive' Infanticide Smear Proven False.
The Women's Rights Law Reporter is a quarterly journal of legal scholarship and feminist criticism published by students at the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, NJ. Now-Supreme Court Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg founded the Reporter in 1970. It is the oldest legal periodical in the United State focused on gender rights.
The Reporter plans to publish a Special Issue in Spring/Summer 2009 devoted to the intersection of Family Law and Gender Law. This special issue is in keeping with the Reporter's three decades of examination of areas of law and public policy relating to gender rights. The Reporter invites submissions of papers for inclusion in this issue on topics including, but not limited to:
How does same-sex marriage implicate questions of gender and/or reinvent gender?
How does gender affect marriage promotion policies; for example, in same-sex marriage laws?
Is family law is the new gender law?
How can family law influence queer theory, and vice-versa?
What is the current relationship between family law and queer law, and how might it develop?
How will state and federal family leave acts be affected by gender?
The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2009.
Manuscripts should be typed and double-spaced with standard one-inch margins and include footnotes that follow The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Eighteenth Edition).
Please include a CV and cover letter that includes a biographic note and a brief article abstract.
The Reporter will accepts submissions electronically or by post.
Electronic submissions should be in MSWord format and sent via email to email@example.com. Posted submissions should be sent to
Women's Rights Law Reporter
123 Washington Street
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Feel free to contact the Reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (973) 353-3106 with questions on the special issue, appropriate topics, or the submissions process.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Boston Globe op-ed: The fate of Roe v. Wade and choice, by Cass Sunstein:
THE RIGHT to reproductive freedom has played an occasional role in many presidential campaigns, but its fate is likely to turn on the 2008 election. Republican presidential candidate John McCain vows to "return the abortion question to the individual states" and then "to end abortion at the state level." The new president will probably be in a position to appoint at least one and perhaps as many as three new justices. With an excellent chance to reconfigure the Supreme Court, McCain, if elected, might well be able to get what the antiabortion movement wants - and more fundamentally, numerous changes in other areas of constitutional law as well.
Those who seek to preserve the right to choose ought to be prepared to make some distinctions. As it was written in 1973, Roe v. Wade was far from a model of legal reasoning, and conservatives have been correct to criticize it. The court failed to root the abortion right in either the text of the Constitution or its own precedents....
But it is one thing to object to Roe as written in 1973. It is another to suggest that it should be overruled in 2008. American constitutional law is stable only because of the principle of stare decisis, which means that in general, the Court should respect its own precedents.
Boston Globe: GOP wants to close stem cell lab doors, by Jonathan D. Moreno and Rick Weiss:
STEM CELL research was one issue that many observers thought would fly under the radar in this year's presidential election. Both candidates have expressed support for research on cell lines from frozen embryos already destined for destruction. Senator John McCain even joined with Senator Barack Obama in voting for legislation that would have loosened President Bush's stem cell research restrictions. And until recently it appeared that the ultraconservative GOP base would give McCain a pass on the issue.
But American politics is nothing if not unpredictable. Just before completing its work two weeks ago, the Republican platform committee was persuaded to change this sentence: "We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of and experimentation on human embryos for research purposes" to this sentence: "We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes." (Our emphases.)
In case it's been a while since your last logic course, here's how the first sentence translates: We call for a ban on human cloning, and creating human embryos for experimentation/research purposes. And here's how the second sentence parses: We call for a ban on human cloning, and the creation of human embryos for research purposes, and experimentation on human embryos.
See also: The Trail (Wash. Post): McCain Radio Spot Trumpets Stem Cell Policy Palin Opposed, by Robert Barnes.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Browne C. Lewis (Cleveland State University - Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) has posted Dead Men Reproducing: Responding to the Existence of Afterdeath Children on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Medical advances currently available permit dead men to reproduce. Sperm can be successfully stored for at least ten years. Therefore, a man's heirs may be created years after his death. Recently, this event has gone from a possibility to a reality. More and more women are choosing to conceive children using the sperm of their dead husbands or boy friends.
Widows of soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have conceived children through artificial insemination using their dead husbands' sperm. The process of creating afterdeath children can occur in two contexts. Scenario One - Prior to going to war, the man has his sperm extracted and placed in a sperm bank. If the man does not return from the war, his wife or girl friend uses his stored sperm to create his child. Scenario Two - The man is killed in the war. His wife or girl friend has the doctor harvest sperm from his dead body. Then, she uses that sperm to conceive his child. Either scenario results in the existence of an afterdeath child that needs financial support.
The law has not kept pace with the reproductive technology. Hence, when the mothers of the posthumously conceived children file social security surviving children claims on behalf of their children, the claims are often rejected. The children are denied benefits because the agency is not equipped to deal with "survivors" who did not exist at the time that the insured worker died. The resolution of these Social Security cases often turns on the manner in which the children are classified under the states' intestacy systems. If the child is eligible to inherit under the intestacy system, the child is entitled to social security survivor's benefits.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Bloomberg: Montreal Archbishop Returns Medal After Abortion Doctor Honored, by Doug Alexander:
Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal, is returning his Order of Canada medal because the award was also bestowed on abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler this year.
``This announcement generated a great deal of criticism on the part of those who do not share Dr. Morgentaler's views regarding the respect for human life,'' Turcotte said in a Canada NewsWire statement. ``I feel obliged in conscience to reaffirm my convictions regarding the respect for human life, from conception to death.''
See also this post on Morgentaler's receipt of the award.