Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Linda Greenhouse on the Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Pre-Roe

NPR (Fresh Air): The Rhetoric That Shaped The Abortion Debate:

Before the Supreme Court struck down many state laws restricting abortion in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, the Justices read briefs from both abortion-rights supporters and opponents.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse has collected the best of these briefs — as well as important documents leading up to the decision — in a new book, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling.

In an interview on Fresh Air, Greenhouse explains the arguments in favor of decriminalizing abortion — and the rhetoric used by both sides of the debate that continues to resonate more than 35 years after Roe. . . .

June 30, 2010 in Abortion, Books, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Spain's Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Law Liberalizing Abortion

AolNews: Spain's Supreme Court to Examine Abortion Law, by James Graff:

Spain flag Just days before Spain's new liberal abortion law was to go into effect, the country's highest court has agreed to hear a challenge to its constitutionality from the opposition conservative Popular Party. 

The law , a key piece in the ruling Socialists' efforts to modernize Spain's social laws, removes all restrictions on abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy. . . .

June 30, 2010 in Abortion, In the Courts, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Study Suggests Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol May Affect Male Fertility

CNN: The Chart (blog): Drinking during pregnancy may hurt sons' fertility:

Scientists have found another reason that women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy: It could affect their sons’ ability to father their own children in the future.

Researchers in Denmark found prenatal exposure to alcohol may lead to long effects on a fetus’ sperm quality.

More than 20 years ago, nearly 12,000 pregnant women in Denmark answered questionnaires about their health and lifestyle, including how much alcohol they were consuming. About five years ago, researchers tracked down 347 adult sons (ages 18-21 years) of those women and tested their semen and blood. . . .

June 30, 2010 in Fertility, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kagan's Approval Appears Likely After Second Day of Questioning

USA Today: Kagan approval seems sure after hearings, by Joan Biskupic:

"I believe you're going to be" approved, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "I think even the other side would have to admit that you have a wonderfully well-ordered mind."

"You have handled yourself well," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., more of a critic. He had challenged views Kagan expressed while an adviser to President Clinton against a federal ban on an abortion procedure critics call partial birth. . . .

June 30, 2010 in Abortion, Congress, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Planned Parenthood Challenges Nebraska Law Requiring Mental Health Screenings Before Abortion

RH Reality Check: Roundup: Lawyer Says Only Way To Not Violate LB594 Is To "Cease Providing Abortion Care", by Robin Marty:

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland yesterday announced their lawsuit against Nebraska politicians who passed the a law requiring all women seeking abortion be screened for mental health issues. Planned Parenthood claims that the requirements are vague, unenforceable, and include false or misleading science, creating a law that is completely unenforceable.

I commented for the Associated Press in this story on potential challenges to this law as well as Nebraska's recently passed ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks' gestation. See also my Omaha World-Herald op-ed addressing the constitutional infirmities of the two laws.

June 30, 2010 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Study Finds Abortion Has Not Played Dominant Role in Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

NY Times: Study Finds Questioning of Nominees to Be Useful, by Adam Liptak:

Ever since nominees to the Supreme Court started to subject themselves to comprehensive grilling in 1939, their confirmation hearings have been dismissed by the legal elite as an empty charade. . . .

But a new study, based on an analysis of every question asked and every answer given at Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the last 70 years, shows that the hearings often address real substance, illuminate the spirit of their times and change with shifts in partisan alignments and the demographic characteristics of nominees.

The study also refutes the common mistaken belief that questions about abortion rights have played a dominant role in confirmation hearings since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. And it finds that female and minority nominees are questioned more closely than white male ones. . . .

May it Please the Senate: An Empirical Analysis of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings of Supreme Court Nominees, 1939-2009, by Lori A. Ringhand (University of Georgia School of Law) and Paul M. Collins Jr. (University of North Texas), can be downloaded on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This paper examines the questions asked and answers given by every Supreme Court nominee who has appeared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee since 1939. In doing so, it uses a new dataset developed by the authors. This database, which provides a much-needed empirical foundation for scholarship in emerging areas of constitutional law and political science, captures all of the statements made at the hearings and codes these comments by issue area, subissue area, party of the appointing president, and party of the questioning senator. The dataset allows us to quantify for the fist time such things as which issues are most frequently discussed at the hearings, whether those issues have changed over time, and whether they vary depending on the party of the appointing president and the party of the questioning senator. We also investigate if questioning patterns differ depending on the race or gender of the nominee. Some of our results are unsurprising: for example, the hearings have become longer. Others, however, challenge conventional wisdom: the Bork hearing is less of an outlier in several ways than is frequently assumed, and abortion has not dominated the hearings. We also discover that there is issue area variation over time, and that there are notable disparities in the issues addressed by Democratic versus Republican senators. Finally, we find that female and minority nominees face a significantly different hearing environment than do white male nominees.

June 30, 2010 in Abortion, Congress, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Former Deputy Ass't AG Accuses Kagan of Manipulating ACOG Statement on "Partial-Birth Abortion" Ban

National Review Online: Kagan’s Abortion Distortion, by Shannen W. Coffin:

When President Obama promised in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place,” he never explained what that rightful place would be. Documents recently released in connection with the Supreme Court nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan suggest an answer: wherever it can best be used to skew political debate and judicial outcomes.

The documents involved date from the Clinton White House. They show Miss Kagan’s willingness to manipulate medical science to fit the Democratic party’s political agenda on the hot-button issue of abortion. As such, they reflect poorly on both the author and the president who nominated her to the Supreme Court.

There is no better example of this distortion of science than the language the United States Supreme Court cited in striking down Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000. This language purported to come from a “select panel” of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians’ group. . . .

See also: The Volokh Conspiracy: Kagan, ACOG and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, by Jonathan H. Adler.

A few comments on this story:  As Adler points out in the addendum to his post, there is nothing in Coffin's accusation that suggests Kagan did anything wrong, even if she did propose language to ACOG.  Moreover, with respect to ACOG's integrity, the edit attributed to Kagan is not inconsistent with the prior version of ACOG's statement, which, after all, had said that the organization's panel could identify no circumstance in which intact D&E were the only option to preserve a woman's life or health.  By clarifying that intact D&E may be the best or most appropriate method in some circumstances, the edit did provide better support for ACOG's stated opposition to the ban.  But that does not prove that ACOG was being disingenuous in adopting the edit or that the new language failed to reflect ACOG's belief.

June 29, 2010 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Congress, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kagan on Gonzales v. Carhart and Health Exceptions in Abortion Regulation

C-Span offers a searchable video and transcript of the Kagan hearings here.  If you search for "abortion," you can hear the (short and not exactly illuminating) exchange between Kagan and Senator Feinstein on Gonzales v. Carhart and the need for a health exception in abortion regulations.  Kagan tries somewhat feebly to distinguish the 2007 decision upholding a congressional ban on so-called "partial-birth abortions," which lacked a health exception, as hinging on the "medical uncertainty" of "that procedure."   Kagan obviously had to answer carefully here, and I was glad to hear her say that, Gonzales v. Carhart notwithstanding, abortion regulations still require a health exception. It seems to me she could have pointed out, however, that Gonzales itself did not rule that women's health could be subordinated to state interests, but rather suggested that as-applied challenges were the appropriate way to address any potential harm to women's health caused by that particular ban. Kagan's answer instead seemed to reinforce the Court's misguided deference to Congress on the scope of the ban and medical safety of intact D&E.

June 28, 2010 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Gonzales v. Carhart, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kagan Reveals Little During Confirmations Hearings

NY Times: Kagan Follows Precedent by Offering Few Opinions, by Charles Savage & Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

Elena Kagan deflected questions about her own views on gun rights and abortion during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Tuesday, instead describing Supreme Court precedents. . . .

Ms. Kagan was exceedingly careful on two of the most contentious issues in just about every Supreme Court nomination hearing: abortion and gun rights. When Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, demanded to know why Ms. Kagan had described two recent Supreme Court 5-to-4 rulings in favor of gun rights as “settled law,” Ms. Kagan kept her answer simple.

“Because the court decided them as they did,” she said. “And once the court has decided a case, it is binding precedent.”

She later described the rulings as “settled law, entitled to all the weight precedent usually gets.”

Similarly, in response to a question about abortion rights, Ms. Kagan replied that “the continuing holding” of the court on matters of abortion — except for a case involving a procedure critics call partial-birth abortion — is that “the woman’s life and the woman’s health must be protected in any abortion regulation.” . . .

June 28, 2010 in Abortion, Congress, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senator Cronyn Op-Ed on Elena Kagan

USA Today (Op-Ed): Sen. Cronyn: I smell a judicial activist, by John Cronyn: 

Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins our hearings on the nomination of Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court of the United States. The hearings are an opportunity for the current solicitor general to explain how she would approach the task of judging. They are also an opportunity for the American people to witness the battle between two very different judicial philosophies.

For decades, judicial activists have often tried to change the meaning of the Constitution to impose their own personal policy preferences on the American people. . . .

June 28, 2010 in Congress, Politics, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kagan Hearings Are "Full of Ghosts"

Slate Magazine: The Kagan Hearings, by Dahlia Lithwick:

Elena Kagan's confirmations are about whether she's really John Roberts or Thurgood Marshall.

There is something achingly familiar about Monday afternoon's opening day of Solicitor General Elena Kagan's Supreme Court Senate confirmation hearings. The talking points on both sides—"liberal judicial activist" and "justices who understand real people"—are so overused that at first you think you just might be listening to the mix tape Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for Justice Samuel Alito's hearings. It's not just Kagan who's being interrogated, though: It's Thurgood Marshall, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Sonia Sotomayor. And it's not just that Republican and Democratic senators are applying the same boring old scripts to a brand new nominee. They're actually applying the same boring old scripts to the same boring old nominees. . . . 

June 28, 2010 in Congress, Politics, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Reading the Tea Leaves on Kagan and Abortion

CNN: Kagan: Past writings on abortion could be flashpoint issue, by Bill Mear:

Washington (CNN) -- First trimester abortions are legal and constitutionally protected, thanks to the 1973 Roe v. Wade high court ruling. But the current court has proven deeply divided whenever the issue arises, so it is possible a single change in the court's makeup could affect future cases dealing with access to the procedure, and the government's power to regulate it. . . .

June 28, 2010 in Abortion, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Separate Reproductive Health Checkups Recommended for Teenage Girls

LA Times: Teenage girls may need two annual preventive health checkups:

Most kids have a well-child medical check-up once a year. That's what the experts recommend for school-age children and teenagers. But one medical group suggests that teenage girls should have two annual preventive health visits: one a general checkup with a primary care doctor and a second "dedicated" reproductive health visit.

The idea is proposed in the July issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology by an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee. The group recommends a girl have her first visit with an ob-gyn between the ages of 13 and 15. . . . 

June 25, 2010 in Medical News, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality, Sexuality Education, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New UN Commission Examines Effect of Laws on National HIV/AIDS Responses

AIDS_ribbon VOANews.com: New UN Commission Probes HIV and the Law, by Joe DeCapua:

 A new U.N. commission was launched Thursday to look at how laws affect national HIV/AIDS responses.

The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) and UNAIDS say, “Nearly 30 years into the epidemic, there are many countries in which negative legal environments undermine HIV response and punish, rather than protect, people in need.” . . .

June 25, 2010 in International, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Independent Expert Report Concludes that Fetuses Cannot Feel Pain Before 24 Weeks

The Australian: No pain for fetus prior to 24 weeks, by Mark Henderson & Lanai Vasek:

THE human fetus cannot feel pain before the age of 24 weeks, according to an independent review of scientific evidence.

Nerve connections in the fetal brain do not form fully enough to allow perception of pain until after the 24-week limit for terminating pregnancies, an expert report commissioned by Britain's Department of Health concluded.

The findings, by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, rebukes claims by anti-abortion activists that legal terminations can inflict pain on fetuses.

It will undermine the efforts of MPs in Britain who tried unsuccessfully to reduce the limit in the previous parliament, to force another vote. . . .

June 25, 2010 in Abortion, Bioethics, International, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

As Confirmation Hearings Near, G.O.P. Characterizes Kagan as a "Political Lawyer"

NY Times: G.O.P. Bears Down on Kagan as Hearings Near, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

Repub elephant WASHINGTON — After weeks of lying low, Republicans on Wednesday began stepping up their attacks on Elena Kagan, and are laying the groundwork to oppose her confirmation to the Supreme Court by casting her as a partisan Democrat who has spent more time practicing politics than law.

When President Obama nominated Ms. Kagan, his solicitor general, to replace Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Republicans quickly complained that she lacked judicial experience. Now, in a fresh twist, they are characterizing her as a “political lawyer” or “political operative” — terms designed to undercut the Democratic argument that Ms. Kagan is hardly the first Supreme Court nominee who has never been a judge. . . . 

June 25, 2010 in Congress, Politics, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Gruber Women's Rights Prize Recipients Are Announced

Gruber Foundation press release:

2010 Gruber Women’s Rights Prize Recipients Hailed for Courageous Efforts in Advancing Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Two Organizations Recognized for Extending and Defending the Rights of Women Through Litigation, Law Reform, and Education 

June 23, 2010, New York, New York – The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation today announced that it will award the 2010 Women’s Rights Prize to two organizations that have contributed significantly to advancing women’s reproductive health and rights in many countries.

Center for Reproductive Rights – an organization dedicated to winning for all women the right to decide whether and when to have children, the freedom to exercise that right, and access to the best reproductive healthcare available. Since 1992, the Center has used both US constitutional law and international human rights law to bring important cases before the courts, UN committees and regional human rights bodies. As a result of these efforts, women in more than 50 countries have expanded access to birth control, safe abortion, prenatal and obstetric care and reliable information about reproductive health and human rights.

CLADEM (Comité de América Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer) – a regional organization in Latin America and the Caribbean that promotes, monitors and defends women’s rights as human rights and contributes to the construction of real democracies in which women can fully exercise their human rights and participate at all levels of society with freedom from violence.  CLADEM was founded in Costa Rica in 1987, two years after the United Nations Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, at which female lawyers gathered to discuss the need for judicial and political reform to defend women’s rights. Currently, about 200 individual and organizational associates in 14 countries are affiliated with CLADEM. . . .

For more information on the 2010 Gruber Prizes, email media@gruberprizes.org or contact Bernetia Akin of the Gruber Foundation at +1 340-775-4430.  Media materials and additional background information on the Gruber Prizes can be found at our online newsroom: www.gruberprizes.org/Press.php.

June 24, 2010 in International, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ACLU Releases Report on Nominee Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan 2 ACLU press release: ACLU Releases Report On Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan:

June 24, 2010 in Congress, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Feminism and Abortion Rights

Wash. Post: A feminism that spans from Palin to Pelosi, by Kathleen Parker:

Proving one's feminist bona fides has become the latest challenge for women aspiring to public office.

Is she a "real" feminist who walks in lock step with traditional feminist orthodoxy? Or is she a faux feminist, i.e. a woman who has benefited from traditional feminism, become all that she could be, but, alas, thinks independently on certain sacred tenets of the sisterhood?

The latest debate emerged recently when pundits on both sides of the widening chasm weighed in on the number of pro-life (and pro-life-ish) Republican women running for public office. The back-and-forth seems to have begun when feminist Jessica Valenti criticized Sarah Palin in The Post for declaring herself a feminist.

The implication: A pro-life woman can't really be a feminist. . . . 

June 24, 2010 in Abortion, Politics, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger Foresees Potential End to Roe v. Wade

Politico: Predicting an end to Roe v. Wade, by James Hohmann:

Former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger predicted Tuesday night that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision that gives women abortion rights. 

The noted liberal scholar said the 1973 decision has become a “trophy” that the court’s conservative bloc could overturn if a Republican president chooses a replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“I absolutely believe it,” Dellinger said during a forum cosponsored by POLITICO. 

“For a while I thought that one could simply chip away at a lot more and more regulations that sort of protected access (to abortions) for the most affluent women but really made it impossible for women who were vulnerable to geography, poverty (and) youth,” he added. “But now I think that, actually, it is such a symbol of a kind of jurisprudence that conservatives have set themselves in opposition to.” . . . 

June 24, 2010 in Abortion, Politics, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)