Sunday, May 17, 2009

Survey Finds Majority of Catholics Support Obama Speaking at Notre Dame

Quinnipiac University: Notre Dame Should Not Disinvite Obama, U.S. Catholics Tell Quinnipiac University National Poll; Attitudes On Abortion Similar Among All U.S. Voters:

U.S. voters say 56 - 31 percent, including 60 - 34 percent among Catholic voters, that Notre Dame University should not rescind its invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at the university's commencement, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

Observant Catholic voters who attend religious services about once a week say 49 - 43 percent that Notre Dame should keep President Obama on the program, while Catholics who attend services less frequently say 70 - 26 percent that Obama should speak, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey of 2,041 registered voters nationwide finds.

May 17, 2009 in Abortion, President/Executive Branch, Public Opinion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Opinions on Gallup's Latest Abortion Poll

The Opinionator (NY Times): Abortion, Debated, by Tobin Harshaw:

The idea that Barack Obama is out to win the culture wars has been kicked around since before he took office.... Yet, as gay marriage moves inexorably forward state by state and the president, a man of faith, does his best to keep the debate over religion from boiling up, it seems that the culture war is largely being fought on what has been its most contentious front: abortion. And this doesn’t seem a battle Obama is itching to fight.

May 16, 2009 in Abortion, Culture, In the Media, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Gallup Poll On Abortion Shows More Americans Calling Themselves "Pro-Life," But Position on Abortion Availability Remains Stable

Gallup: More Americans “Pro-Life” Than “Pro-Choice” for First Time, by Lydia Saad:

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

The new results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50% were pro-choice and 44% pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46%, in both August 2001 and May 2002.

It is not clear, however, that this shift in preferred nomenclature represents a significant change in the public's substantive position on when abortion should be legally available:

Still, the dominant position on this question remains the middle option, as it has continuously since 1975: 53% currently say abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances....

In Gallup's 2008 poll, 41% said abortion should be legal either in "all" or "most" circumstances, while 40% said it should be legal "only in a few" circumstances. In 2009, 37% said it should be legal in "all" or "most" circumstances, while 37% chose "in only a few" circumstances.  There was, however, an increase in people who said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances (23% in 2009 versus 17% in 2008).

May 16, 2009 in Abortion, Culture, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Will Potential Nominees' Abortion Records Factor Into Obama's Decision Over Souter's Replacement?

LA Times: Abortion, gay marriage complicate Supreme Court selection, by James Oliphant & David Savage:

Supreme Court Reporting from Washington — Even as President Obama flies to the University of Notre Dame this weekend to give a commencement speech that promises to be marked by bitter abortion protests, he will be grappling with one of the most critical decisions of his presidency.

With a new poll out Friday showing that for the first time a majority of Americans call themselves "pro-life," the decision of whom to nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court has grown even more complex.

Obama is determined to avoid a "culture war" over the choice, White House aides and Democratic lawyers say, and he hopes to select a candidate who will not galvanize conservative activists over wedge issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

With that in mind, the White House is poring over the records of leading candidates for the high court, looking for potential flash points. That could lead to problems for some who are thought to be on Obama's short list.

May 16, 2009 in Abortion, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Missouri Senate Passes Abortion Bill

Kansas City Star: Abortion bill passes Senate; House will consider in final days of session, by Jason Noble:

Legislation approved early Thursday morning in the Missouri Senate would require women seeking abortions to hear health warnings and descriptions of the unborn child before undergoing the procedure.

The bill goes further than present law by expanding the information women must hear prior to an abortion and requiring them to hear it in person. It represents a compromise between pro-abortion rights Democrats and anti-abortion lawmakers, who initially proposed criminal penalties for coercing a woman to have an abortion.

The bill now moves to the House, where it has until 6 p.m. Friday to be approved and passed to the governor.

May 14, 2009 in Abortion, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Spain Plans to Liberalize Abortion Laws

BBC News: Spain plans abortion law changes:

Spain flag The Spanish cabinet has agreed to liberalise the country's strict abortion laws, allowing abortion in most cases up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The proposals must go to parliament, where Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero lacks a majority....

Under current law, introduced in 1985, abortion is allowed in cases of rape up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks in the case of foetal malformation.

May 14, 2009 in Abortion Bans, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ACLU Challenges Patents on Breast Cancer Genes

ACLU press release:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (PUBPAT), filed a lawsuit today charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer stifle research that could lead to cures and limit women's options regarding their medical care. Mutations along the genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are responsible for most cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. The lawsuit argues that the patents on these genes are unconstitutional and invalid.

"Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes. Moreover, granting patents that limit scientific research, learning and the free flow of information violates the First Amendment."

Today's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of breast cancer and women's health groups, individual women and scientific associations representing approximately 150,000 researchers, pathologists and laboratory professionals against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), as well as Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the BRCA genes. It is the first to apply the First Amendment to a gene patent challenge.

The patents granted to Myriad give the company the exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and to prevent any researcher from even looking at the genes without first getting permission from Myriad. According to the lawsuit, such monopolistic control over these genes hampers clinical diagnosis and serves as a disincentive for research because Myriad not only has the right to enforce its patents against other entities but also has the rights to future mutations discovered on the BRCA2 gene. The gene patents are also illegal under patent law because genes are "products of nature."

More information, including a copy of the complaint, available here.

May 14, 2009 in In the Courts, Science, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Joanna Erdman on Health Equity and the HPV Vaccine

Joanna Erdman (Univ. of Toronto) has posted Health Equity, HPV and the Cervical Cancer Vaccine on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Joanna Erdman This article explores the relationship between technological innovation and health inequity. It examines in particular the relationship between the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, the cause of cervical cancer, and inequity in cervical cancer incidence and mortality. In Canada, screening programs have drastically reduced the incidence of cervical cancer, but their benefits have been unequally distributed. Prevention efforts have disproportionately failed women of disadvantaged social groups. Technological innovation alone will not remedy this inequity. The HPV vaccine merely expands the available means for reducing or increasing health inequity depending on its implementation. For this reason, the article looks beyond technological innovation to focus on both the positive and negative health equity effects of the Canadian HPV vaccination strategy.

May 14, 2009 in Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

President Obama's Budget Fails to Strike Harmful Abortion Funding Restrictions

National Abortion Federation press release: The President’s Budget Misses an Opportunity to Improve Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care: 

Statement of Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), in response to the release of President Barack Obama’s FY2010 Budget:

We are deeply disappointed that President Obama failed to strike federal funding restrictions on abortion care from his proposed budget.

Federal funding restrictions are the most significant barrier to abortion access for low-income women. These funding restrictions unfairly jeopardize the health and well-being of millions of women who rely on the federal government for their health care. Women affected include low-income women who are enrolled in Medicaid, Peace Corps volunteers, Native American women, women in federal prisons, and federal employees.

During these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that all women have access to quality, affordable health care including abortion care. For 30 years, NAF has been operating a national, toll-free hotline to provide women with factual information, options counseling, referrals to providers of quality care, and limited financial assistance. In the last year, call volume to our Hotline has nearly tripled. We hear from thousands of women each week who are struggling to afford the abortion care they need. It is critically important that the health care needs of these women not be overlooked. 

As we move forward with health care reform, we call on the President and Congress to work together to ensure that women have access to comprehensive health care, including abortion care.

May 12, 2009 in Abortion, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ross Douthat on Abortion and Marriage

Ross Douthat has published another op-ed on abortion (and marriage) in the NY Times today: Faking Left:

Among their many aspirations for his presidency, Barack Obama’s admirers nurse a persistent hope that he might be able to end the culture wars. And by end, they generally mean win. The real hope is a final victory for cultural liberalism, and social conservatism’s permanent eclipse.

These hopes are overstated, but not necessarily irrational. Four months in, the Obama administration does seem to have a plausible strategy for turning the “social issues” to liberalism’s advantage. The outline is simple: Engage on abortion, and punt on gay rights.

Douthat claims, mysteriously, that the Obama Adminstration must engage on abortion because "[t]he pro-life movement is arguably more comfortable with the language of rights and liberties than its opponents."  Huh?  I was reluctant to post the op-ed without responding, but luckily Wonkette was on the same wave-length (and no doubt much funnier about it than I would have been):

It is not his debut — maybe second, or third, or fourth — but it’s the first one we’ve read so deal with it okay? It’s not bad! And because he is, again, a “youth,” he throws in many Internet hyperlinks to his sources. Clicky clicky hooray! So this post will be, unfortunately, a Civilized response to one of his points — that the grain of history favors the pro-life movement — which is less fun than just spitting blood at the computer screen, as we did for Bill Kristol....

Read the full response: ‘New York Neck-Beard’ Douthat Writes Column About Abortion And Gays!

May 12, 2009 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Borgmann and Manian on Facial Challenges and the Roberts Court

I have posted Holding Legislatures Constitutionally Accountable Through Facial Challenges on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Borgmann The Roberts Court has viewed facial challenges with skepticism and hostility. The Court issued one early decision suggesting that its primary concern with facial challenges was the breadth of the remedy. More recently, however, the Court has simply denied facial challenges outright without considering the possibility of more limited relief. In these cases, the Court has focused more on the pre-enforcement and broad-ranging nature of facial challenges, expressing a preference for concrete evidence that a law has harmed, or will harm, particular classes of individuals. While placing a heavy burden on plaintiffs to demonstrate actual or likely harm, the Court has often deferred to legislative factual assertions regarding the purposes that underlie rights-infringing laws, even where those purposes are quite likely pretextual. The Roberts Court’s intolerance for facial challenges thus does more than perpetuate the Court’s longstanding confusion over the standard by which to assess such challenges; it permits the Court to withdraw from its critical role in safeguarding individual rights. This Article argues that facial challenges and facial invalidations can help to promote constitutional accountability among legislatures. When a legislature defies clearly established constitutional requirements, or when a legislature’s fact-based justifications for a rights-infringing law crumble under independent examination, a legislature repudiates its duty to uphold the Constitution. That shortcoming infects the entire law; it is not limited to some subset of potential applications. It is the courts’ duty in such cases, not to reward or accommodate the legislature’s failure, but to protect individual rights from it. Complete invalidation of the law in such circumstances satisfies constitutional norms and vindicates the courts’ critical role in protecting individual rights from majority oppression.

Maya Manian (USF) wrote a response to the article, Rights, Remedies and Facial Challenges, also available on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Maya Manian This brief comment extends upon a key point raised by Caitlin Borgmann’s article, Holding Legislatures Constitutionally Accountable Through Facial Challenges, which argues in part that the Roberts Court takes an outcome-driven approach to facial challenges. Building on Borgmann’s analysis, this comment further suggests that the Court not only manipulates the law in an outcome determinative manner, but also exploits the rules regarding the use of as-applied and facial challenges as a means to rewrite substantive law without having to openly overrule prior precedent. This comment focuses on Gonzales v. Carhart as an illustration of the Roberts Courts’ manipulation of procedural rules regarding as-applied and facial challenges to cloak its overruling of substantive precedent. This comment also suggests that, given an environment of hostility towards facial challenges, civil rights litigants might better succeed in preserving constitutional rights by seeking narrower injunctive remedies against unconstitutional regulations rather than seeking total invalidation of such regulations.

These articles were written for a symposium on facial challenges and the Roberts Court, hosted by the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly in February 2009.  David Franklin (DePaul) and David Faigman (Hastings) also contributed articles, and Kevin Walsh (Villanova) contributed a response to Professor Faigman.  The symposium issue is forthcoming this spring.

May 12, 2009 in Conferences and Symposia, Scholarship and Research, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Spain Plans to Offer Emergency Contraception Over-the-Counter Without Age Restrictions

Feminist Wire Daily Newsbriefs (Ms. Magazine): Spain to Make Emergency Contraception Available Over-the-Counter:

Spain flag Spain announced plans to offer emergency contraception over-the-counter today with no age restrictions. Spain's Health Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, said "It is an emergency method of contraception, not to be used except in emergencies....We don't want it to become another means of contraception," according to the Agence France Presse.

Emergency contraception is effective up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, birth control failure, or rape, but it is most effective (95 percent) if taken within 24 hours. Because of the time-sensitive nature of EC, over-the-counter access is crucial to its effective use.

Currently, there is also movement in Spain to reform abortion laws as part of the social change program undertaken by Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

May 12, 2009 in Contraception, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Abstinence-Only Proponents Upset Over Obama's Budget Cuts

Amplify: The Abstinence Clowns Are Freaking Out:

Yesterday, President Obama struck a blow to the abstinence-only community, cutting ALL of their funding streams in his new 2010 budget. Obama made it clear that our government should no longer fund these failed programs that promote misinformation, misogyny, discrimination and, of course, juggling and cinder block wielding abstinence clowns.

And the response from these abstinence-only organizations has ranged from angry to completely unhinged.

The National Abstinence Education Association was the first to weigh in. From their press release:

Today's release of the 2010 Budget by the White House disregards the growing body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of abstinence education. Unfortunately, the president's budget ignores research that documents a 50% decrease in sexual onset among teens that are enrolled in abstinence programs.


"With seemingly plausible intentions, this budget places rhetoric over reality by ignoring clear and compelling evidence that abstinence education *does* work", adds Huber.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “what evidence”? The independent government-funded Mathematic study revealing the failure of abstinence-only programs? Rigorous reviews from both Advocates for Youth, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, have identified which sex education programs are effective – and not one abstinence-only program made the cut. So the NAEA has been in panic mode.

Read the full post, which includes several illuminating videos of abstinence-only proponents.
H/T: Rebecca Bratspies (via Daily Kos).

May 11, 2009 in Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Problem With Bristol Palin's Abstinence Message

As she campaigns to prevent teen pregnancy, Bristol Palin has been preaching abstinence.  Her words are telling, however.  Palin reportedly has said, "Regardless of what I did personally, I just think that abstinence is the only…100% foolproof way you can prevent pregnancy."  But that "regardless" is exactly the point.  Abstinence-only advocates love to tout abstinence as the only "foolproof" way to avoid pregnancy.  Yet, like every other pregnancy prevention method, abstinence is only maximally effective if it is practiced perfectly and consistently.  When the effective rates of other contraceptives are given, those rates include "typical use" rates, which account for inconsistency of, or errors in, use. There is no reason to be confident that teens can practice abstinence perfectly, and Palin is the best example of that.  

Here's more on what it means to "use abstinence" and the difficulty in measuring its effectiveness, from the Guttmacher Institute.

May 8, 2009 in Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama's Budget Slashes Funds for Abstinence-Only Education

Wall St. Journal: Budget Widens Teen-Pregnancy-Prevention Efforts, by Laura Meckler:

President Barack Obama's 2010 budget eliminates most federal funding for abstinence-only sex-education programs and replaces it with a pair of new teen-pregnancy-prevention programs that could include discussions of birth control.

But like other proposed cuts in the budget, it isn't clear whether Congress will go along. Liberals have derided abstinence-only education as ineffective and even misleading, but the Democratic-controlled Congress has continued to fund the programs.

In total, the Obama budget proposes $164 million for teen-pregnancy prevention. Of that, about 25% would be open to abstinence-only programs, which would have to compete with other initiatives. The rest of the money is reserved for programs that have been proved "through rigorous evaluations" to be successful, the administration proposal says.

May 8, 2009 in President/Executive Branch, Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYC Teens Not Impressed With Bristol Palin's Abstinence Message

ABC News: NYC Teens Chide Palin's Abstinence Call, by Susan Donaldson James:

New York City students who heard Bristol Palin's warnings against teen pregnancy say they might consider abstinence, but they wouldn't take advice on it from the young unwed mother.

Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, recently was selected as an ambassador to The Candie's Foundation to help create awareness about the pitfalls of teen pregnancy.

On Wednesday, she carried her message to about 150 teens at a town meeting forum at The Times Center that included "Heroes" actress Hayden Panettiere and Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza, who was a teen father.

May 8, 2009 in Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

NH Legislature Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

CNN: New Hampshire lawmakers approve same-sex marriage:

New Hampshire lawmakers on Wednesday passed a same-sex marriage bill, now headed to Gov. John Lynch.

The state House passed the bill in a 178-167 vote. The Senate last week approved the legislation in a 13-11 vote.

May 7, 2009 in Sexuality, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

White House Hosts Meetings With Abortion Rights Supporters and Opponents

Wall St. Journal: White House Begins Effort to Bridge the Divide on Abortion, by Laura Meckler:

White house The White House has begun bringing together a diverse group of abortion-rights supporters and opponents to help craft policies both sides can embrace: preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing demand for abortion.

President Barack Obama appears to be trying to make good on his pledge to defuse tensions around polarizing issues....

Interviews with several participants suggest there is some common ground, but plenty of disagreements remain. It will be challenging for the White House to settle on policies that reach across the spectrum.

Participants said that abortion opponents tended to focus on efforts to help pregnant women keep their babies, while the abortion-rights camp focused on preventing unwanted pregnancy....

The meetings -- anywhere from a dozen to two dozen people at a time -- began about a month ago and are expected to continue for another six to eight weeks. The White House hopes to have a proposal formed by late summer, Ms. Barnes said.

May 7, 2009 in Abortion, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Reuters: Maine governor signs gay-marriage bill, by Jason Szep:

ME flag Maine's governor signed a bill on Wednesday legalizing same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the northeastern U.S. state to become the fifth in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.

"I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully," Democratic Governor John Baldacci said in a statement. "I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste."

Gay marriage has made big inroads in the United States this year. In a single week last month, Iowa and Vermont joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing gay couples to legally wed. Legislation is also advancing in New Hampshire.

May 6, 2009 in Sexuality, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bristol Palin Campaigns Against Teen Pregnancy

MSNBC: Bristol Palin calls teen motherhood ‘hard work’, by Mike Celizic:

Campaigning against teen pregnancy on the TODAY show Wednesday, Bristol Palin, 18-year-old daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, told Matt Lauer that a baby “is not just an accessory on your hip. This is hard work.” But she called her 4-month-old son Tripp “not a mistake at all. He’s a blessing.”

Bristol, her baby, and her father, Todd Palin, were visiting the TODAY show to promote the Eighth Annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The event is sponsored by the Candie’s Foundation, for which Bristol has signed on as a national spokeswoman in the battle to fight teen pregnancy in the United States.

May 6, 2009 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)