Monday, February 28, 2011
ACLU Brief Argues Religious Beliefs Should Not Dictate Insurance Coverage for Reproductive Health Care
RICHMOND – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia filed a friend-of-the-court brief today opposing faith-based Liberty University’s argument that the health care reform act passed last year would violate its rights by requiring it to purchase insurance that could cover abortion. The ACLU argued that religious beliefs should not dictate access to health care services for others.
Liberty University’s argument, put forth in its lawsuit against the government challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would effectively require insurance companies to exclude coverage for abortion and other health care services that any faith claims are objectionable. The university lost its initial challenge to the ACA last year and is now appealing the case.
“Liberty University’s argument in this case is part of a larger strategy to deny women vital reproductive health care services in their health care coverage,” said Brigitte Amiri, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Every woman deserves the peace of mind of knowing that she can make the best decision for her situation without having her medical coverage dictated by someone else’s beliefs.”
Women’s access to abortion care and contraception is at the heart of many battles currently being waged in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures. The House of Representatives is currently considering measures such as a proposal to eliminate funding for family planning programs and legislation that would take away insurance coverage for abortion from the millions of women who currently have it. Many state legislatures are also banning abortion coverage in the health care exchanges that were created by the federal health care reform legislation.
“While everyone is free to make their own health care decisions based on their own religious beliefs, those beliefs cannot be used to deny services to others,” said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “One need only consider the impact of compelling insurance companies to refuse to cover other medical procedures forbidden by various faiths, such as blood transfusions and organ transplants, to see the harmful implications of Liberty’s argument.”
“No one is required to undergo treatment that conflicts with her faith,” said Rebecca Glenberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “But abortion is a legal procedure that is already covered by most insurance plans. It is wrong to deny women access for the care they need based on others’ objections.”
Today’s brief was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Lawyers on the case include Beck and Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Mach and Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia.
Huffington Post: Behind The Assault On Planned Parenthood, by Ryan Grim:
WASHINGTON -- The House Republican move to strip federal funds from the nation's most well-known reproductive health care provider as part of its budget last week was the culmination of a multi-year effort that involved parallel action by top Republicans and conservative media operatives playing up the work of a California college student who has been creating surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood employees for years.
The student, Lila Rose, is the president of an organization called Live Action that pays actors to walk into Planned Parenthood offices with hidden cameras, much as James O'Keefe did to undermine the community-organizing group ACORN. The Live Action stars pretend to be a pimp and a prostitute engaged in human trafficking and looking for birth control, STD testing and abortions. The videos that the organization puts out can be convincing and disturbing -- and in at least two cases were found by Planned Parenthood to be legitimate cause for dismissals -- but thorough, frame-by-frame reviews of the full-length videos show that what is posted on YouTube often bears little relation to what happened in reality, due to heavy editing that alters the meaning of conversations. . . .
New York Daily News: Lawmakers join protestors rallying against proposed budget cuts to Planned Parenthood, by Keldy Ortiz & Kathleen Lucadamo:
New York lawmakers joined more than 5,000 pro-choice supporters Saturday at a protest against federal budget cuts to Planned Parenthood.
"The attack on planned parenting is an attack on women everywhere. The attempt to defund Planned Parenthood is an attempt to take away women's access to health care in neighborhoods across the country," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at the lower Manhattan rally.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted the amendment that cuts the funding, which Congress passed last week, is "dead on arrival" when it lands in the Democrat-controlled Senate and would turn "the clock back 50, 100 years in terms of women's rights and women's health.". . .
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Guttmacher News Release: The IUD makes a comeback:
Changing attitudes about intrauterine devices (IUDs) and increasing recognition of their safety and efficacy have led to a resurgence in use, according to a commentary in Contraception co-authored by Lawrence Finer, Guttmacher director of domestic research. New findings show that approximately 2.1 million American women now rely on this method, the highest level of IUD use in almost 30 years. IUDs are highly effective and can play an important role in reducing the high U.S. rate of unintended pregnancy . . . .
Mother Jones: Nebraska Resurrects "Justifiable Homicide" Bill, by Nick Baumann & Daniel Schulman:
Just when abortion rights supporters thought they had beaten a controversial bill they believe would legalize the killing of abortion providers, it has cropped up again—this time in a more expansive form that has drawn the concern of law enforcement officials.
Last week, South Dakota's legislature shelved a bill, introduced by Republican state Rep. Phil Jensen, which would have allowed the use of the "justifiable homicide" defense for killings intended to prevent harm to a fetus. Now a nearly identical bill is being considered in neighboring Nebraska, where on Wednesday the state legislature held a hearing on the measure. . . .
Friday, February 25, 2011
Salon.com: An open letter to Kanye West about his abortion tweet, by Drew Grant:
The hip-hop star's message isn't pro-life or pro-choice. It's just dumb
I know you are very busy with "All the Lights," I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but Justin Bieber had one of the best uninformed abortion sound bites of all time. For someone who is known for his funny and irreverent tweets (they've been turned into New Yorker cartoons and "30 Rock" catechisms!), your tweet about gold diggers getting pregnant on purpose so they can scam money for abortions is the biggest misstep in your career.
Yesterday, Kanye sent out this message to his 2,518,037 followers . . . .
Controversial Billboard in NYC, Declaring "Womb" the "Most Dangerous" Place for African Americans, Is Taken Down
UPI.com: NYC anti-abortion billboard taken down:
A New York billboard erected by an anti-abortion group that focused on high African-American abortion rates has been taken down, authorities said.
A spokesman for Lamar Advertising of Louisiana said it was taken down because of public safety concerns, CNN reported Friday. . . .
See also: Salon.com: New York City billboard likens abortion to black genocide, by Amy Steinberg:
"The most dangerous place for African Americans is in the womb"
A 4-story anti-abortion billboard in SoHo recently angered quite a few New Yorkers, sent shock waves throughout the country. The billboard -- which stands just a half-mile from one of the city's Planned Parenthood centers -- pictures an young African-American girl and bears the headline: "The most dangerous place for African Americans is in the womb."
The Texas-based anti-abortion group Life Always is behind the new campaign, which attempts to accuse Planned Parenthood of exploiting minority neighborhoods. On its website, Life Always cites recent data from the Census and Centers for Disease Control showing that African Americans constitute about 13 percent of the population, yet receive 36 percent of abortions.
Life Always board member and pastor Steve Broden says of the campaign, “During Black History Month, we celebrate our history, but our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion.” His fellow board member Reverend Derek McCoy also backs his groups efforts by claming that the billboard "highlights the tragedy that abortion is the number one killer since 1973 in the black community, and the truth that we must confront in a city with a near 60 percent abortion rate for black women." . . .
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
NY Times: U.S., in Shift, Sees Marriage Act as Violation of Gay Rights, by Charlie Savage & Sheryl Gay Stolberg:
WASHINGTON — President Obama, in a major legal policy shift, has directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday saying that the Justice Department will now take the position in court that the act should be struck down as a violation of same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection under the law. . . .
See also: San Jose Mercury News: Feinstein will introduce bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act, by Josh Richman:
On the heels of President Barack Obama's announcement that the federal government would not longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a statement Wednesday saying that as a Senate Judiciary Committee member, she intends to introduce a bill that would repeal the act on and for all. . . .
For competing viewpoints on the propriety of the administration's refusal to defend DOMA see:
Point of Law: Brief thoughts on the administration's DOMA decision, by James R. Copland:
Ted's absolutely right that it's very unusual for an administration to refuse to defend a duly signed federal statute, but it's hardly unprecedented. The closest relatively recent analogue of which I'm aware -- in which the constitutional rule being invoked in refusing to enforce the law is unsettled by the Supreme Court and politically charged -- is the George H.W. Bush administration's decision not to defend federal affirmative-action contracting in Metro Broadcasting. The acting solicitor general for that case was, interestingly, one John Roberts. See this interesting analysis from Marty Lederman. . . .
Volokh Conspiracy: The Executive Power Grab in the Decision Not to Defend DOMA, by Orin Kerr:
I can understand the intense political pressure on the Obama Administration not to defend DOMA. Presumably Obama and pretty much every significant lawyer in the Obama Administration opposes DOMA, whether or not they can take that position on the record. For what it’s worth, I oppose it, too. At the same time, I worry that the decision may have serious long-term effects on the role of the executive branch and executive power. In this post, I want to explain my concerns, and then I’ll open it up for reader comments on whether my concerns are justified. . . .
Michael J. Higdon (University of Tennessee College of Law) has posted Fatherhood by Conscription: Nonconsensual Insemination and the Duty of Child Support on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Nathaniel, was a California teenager who became a father in 1995. The mother of Nathaniel’s child was named Ricci, and at the time of conception, she was thirty-four years old. Nathaniel, however, was merely fifteen. Although Nathaniel admitted to having sex with Ricci voluntarily about five times, the fact that he was under sixteen years of age at the time made it legally impossible for him to consent to sexual intercourse. In other words, under California law, Nathaniel was not only a new father, but was also a victim of statutory rape. Nonetheless, in a subsequent action for child support, the court held that Nathaniel was liable for the support of the child who was born as a result of his rape. According to the court, "Victims have rights. Here, the victim also has responsibilities."
Much of the law relating to child support is based on the fact that it is typically in a child’s best interest to receive financial support from mothers as well as fathers. So strong is this precept that courts will hold a father liable for child support even in the face of wrongful conduct by the mother. Thus, child support is essentially a form of strict liability with the justification being that the child is an innocent party, and, therefore, it is the child’s interests and welfare that the court must look to in adjudicating support. At first glance, such a standard seems eminently reasonable. Few would argue with the proposition that, if a man voluntarily has sex with a woman and a child results, then he should be liable for child support. The problem with the court’s current approach, however, is that the standard is so strict that even those men who never consented to the sexual act that caused the pregnancy are nonetheless liable for the support of the resulting child. These men include males who became fathers as a result of statutory rape and also adult males who became fathers either as a result of sexual assault or having their sperm stolen and used by a woman for purposes of self-insemination. In all such cases, these "fathers" have been held liable for child support.
The purpose then of this article is, first, to underscore the criticisms that other commentators have raised on how the strict liability approach poses a grave injustice not only to the men who are pressed into the obligations of fatherhood but also to society, which has an interest in protecting all citizens from sexual assault. More importantly, however, I also offer a new objection and, on that basis, a proposed solution. Specifically, the courts' justification that all children are entitled to support from both biological parents has been seriously undermined by the laws regulating artificial insemination. In that context, a man (regardless of whether he is the sperm donor or the non-donor husband of the inseminated female) only becomes the legal father of an artificially inseminated child if he affirmatively consents. I argue that it is incongruous to allow exceptions for formal sperm donors yet wholesale deny similar protections for those who, although not in the setting of a sperm bank, never consented to the use of their sperm. Accordingly, I propose a solution whereby courts adopt an approach similar (albeit narrower) to that used in artificial insemination cases to adjudicate child support claims against those men who were forced into fatherhood as a result of nonconsensual insemination.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
NY Times: B. N. Nathanson, 84, Dies; Changed Sides on Abortion, by William Grimes:
Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, a campaigner for abortion rights who, after experiencing a change of heart in the 1970s became a prominent opponent of abortion and the on-screen narrator of the anti-abortion film “The Silent Scream,” died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 84.
The cause was cancer, said his wife, Christine. . . .
In a recent interview for Rolling Stone, Justin Bieber discusses his views on sex and abortion, apparently explaining that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape, which he thinks is sad but "happens for a reason." While I certainly disagree with this position, it does have the virtue of consistency: if you think abortion is just "like killing a baby," then it's not clear how you could make an acception for "babies" conceived through rape. More likely though, like many conservatives, Bieber doesn't really think abortion is just "like killing a baby." That might explain the assurances of a "source close to [Bieber]" that he was only "asking for clarification," not making an assertion. (The magazine allegedly omitted a crucial question mark. I guess Bieber wasn't just uptalking?) Let me be clear: Bieber is a teenager who still has a lot of learning and growing to do. It's not fair to judge his positions on abortion as one would those of a government official, activist, or other person who affects public policy on abortion. But it's also important to remember that teenagers like Bieber are influenced by the rhetoric of just these kinds of people. We need to be careful, and consistent, in how we talk about issues like rape and abortion. I've written more on that topic here.
Rally in New York City to fight back against the attacks on Planned Parenthood in Congress.
Rally For Women's Health!
Saturday, February 26th, 1-3pm
Foley Square, Manhattan, New York City
On Twitter we've been using the hashtag #feb26, and our main Twitter is http://www.twitter.com/PPNYCAction
Here is the link to the Facebook event: <http://www.facebook.com/ppnyc#!/event.php?eid=189460984407552>
We’ve created a tumblr to collect peoples’ stories about why Planned Parenthood and family planning funding is so important, and will also be promoting all things rally-related. The blog address is here: <http://standupforwomen.tumblr.com/>, and stories can be submitted at <http://standupforwomen.tumblr.com/submit>.
Lastly, our official RSVP page: http://www.ppaction.org/site/Calendar?id=100457&view=Detail
Monday, February 21, 2011
Mark Rienzi (Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law) has posted The Constitutional Right to Refuse: Roe, Casey, and the Fourteenth Amendment Rights of Healthcare Providers on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The Fourteenth Amendment rights of various parties in the abortion context – the pregnant woman, the fetus, the fetus’ father, the state – have been discussed at length by commentators and the courts. Surprisingly, the Fourteenth Amendment rights of the healthcare provider asked to provide the abortion have not. Roe and Casey establish a pregnant woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to decide for herself whether to have an abortion. Do those same precedents also protect her doctor’s right to decide whether to participate in abortion procedures?
The Court’s substantive due process analysis typically looks for rights that are “deeply rooted” in our history and traditions. Accordingly, this article addresses the historical basis for finding that providers do indeed have a Fourteenth Amendment right to refuse to perform abortions. This historical analysis shows that the right to refuse passes the Court’s stated test for Fourteenth Amendment protection. In fact, the right to refuse actually has better historical support, and better satisfies the Court’s stated tests, than the abortion right itself.
Beyond this historical case, a healthcare provider’s right to make this decision also fits squarely within the zone of individual decision-making protected by the Court’s opinions in Casey and Lawrence v. Texas, and protects providers from the types of psychological harm that the Court recognized in Roe and Casey. For these reasons, under Roe and Casey, a healthcare provider has a Fourteenth Amendment right to refuse to participate in abortions.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Former Kansas AG, Phill Kline, Faces Ethics Allegations Concerning His Aggressive Pursuit of Abortion Clinics
Kansas City Star: Kline returning to Kansas to face ethics allegations regarding his abortion fight, by David Klepper:
Phill Kline returns to Kansas today to answer allegations that he misled judges and mishandled evidence in his dogged pursuit of abortion clinics.
Hanging in the balance is Kline’s reputation, his law license and the final verdict on his long investigation of Planned Parenthood and Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, who was slain in 2009. . . .
Saturday, February 19, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle editorial: Odious vote by Republicans:
In the face of high unemployment and a skyrocketing federal deficit, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to undermine women's health choices last week. On Friday it approved an amendment that would block federal aid for Planned Parenthood.
The 240-185 vote broke almost strictly along party lines, suggesting that even the House's anti-abortion Democrats understand that such a reckless and radical bill is a terrible idea for the country. Planned Parenthood provides so much more than just abortion services - it also provides contraceptives, disease testing, breast and cervical cancer screening, and many other reproductive health services to predominately lower-income women. . . .
Yehezkel Margalit (Bar Ilan University and Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research) has posted To Be or Not to Be (a Parent)? – Not Precisely the Question; The Frozen Embryo Dispute on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Modern medicine offers us a variety of fertility treatments. One of the results is that in the United States alone there are a more than 400,000 frozen embryos and another 10,000 frozen embryos are frozen each year. Since the rate of divorce in the United States increases exponentially, one can easily imagine how many frozen embryos may become the subject of litigation. Indeed a lot of attention is devoted to this sort of dispute by the media, the law and by people considering the ethical aspects. This is because this kind of dispute forces us to reassess many complex matters starting with the appropriate balance between the legal right to become a parent and the legal right not to be forced to become a parent. In this research we will try to present for reassessment the legal dispute as dichotomy and binary as if we have to choose between two options, either full legal parentage or no legal parentage. We will prove that the establishment of legal parentage is primarily by agreement due to the intention, wish and agreement which led to the birth of a child. In our opinion, the extent of parental status to be given to the legal parent depends upon the extent of the responsibility, which he is willing to undertake. If he accepts all the parental duties, his status will be that of a full parenthood, but if he does not want to undertake all the parental duties, he will not receive any parental right, but simply the status of non-parenthood. This approach used in the case of adoption was also applied in legal practice in many states of the United States and in the world, whereby the donor of gamete, semen and ova, or even frozen embryo receives the status of non-parenthood. In this research we will endeavor to examine the value and efficiency of offering an additional legal option which may be a possible compromise in the case of the bitter quarrels with regard to frozen embryos - granting the non-parenthood status to the spouse who objects to the continued fertility treatments and to becoming a parent against his will.
Salon.com: The Back Alley 2011: How the politics of abortion protects bad clinics, by William Saletan:
. . . What happened in Kermit Gosnell's clinic, according to a Philadelphia grand jury—reckless anesthesia, poor sanitation, regulatory neglect, and lethal mistreatment of two women—could turn out to be one of this country's worst unsafe-abortion scandals since Roe v. Wade. But it wouldn't be the first such scandal.
As measured by mortality risk to the woman, abortion is one of the safest surgeries practiced today. It's certainly safer than childbirth. But sometimes, shoddy abortionists are protected by a unique kind of regulatory failure. Scrutiny of pregnancy termination, unlike other procedures, is often perceived and resisted as political. . . .
The New York Times: A Bush Rule on Providers of Abortions Is Revised, by Robert Pear:
The Obama administration on Friday rescinded most of a 2008 rule that granted sweeping protections to health care providers who opposed abortion, sterilization and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the rule, issued in the last days of the Bush administration, could “negatively impact patient access to contraception and certain other medical services.”
Federal laws make clear that health care providers cannot be compelled to perform or assist in an abortion, Ms. Sebelius said. The Bush rule went far beyond these laws and upset the balance between patients’ rights to obtain health care and “the conscience rights of health care providers,” she added. . . .
Friday, February 18, 2011
The Nation: When Teen Pregnancy Is No Accident, by Lynn Harris:
Leyla W. couldn't figure out where her birth control pills kept going. One day a few tablets would be missing; the next, the whole container. Her then-boyfriend shrugged and said he hadn’t seen them. She believed him—until she found them in his drawer. When she confronted him, he hit her. "That was his way of shutting me up," says Leyla, who is in her mid-20s and living in Northern California. (For her safety, Leyla wishes to withhold her last name and hometown.) He also raped her and, most days, left her locked in a bedroom with a bit of food and water while he went to work. (A roommate took pity and let her out until he came home.) Thanks to the missed pills, she got pregnant twice, the second time deciding against abortion.
Despite his role in getting her pregnant, when Leyla decided she did not want to have an abortion, her boyfriend did a 180, screaming at her belly that he didn’t want the baby to live, threatening to “kick the baby out” of her stomach and even, one day, pushing her down a flight of stairs. Her pregnancy was “hell,” says Leyla. Perhaps mercifully, it ended at thirty-seven weeks—the baby arriving three weeks early, her doctor speculated, because of his mother’s profound stress. (Her doctor was aware, to some degree, of the abuse, and told Leyla the best thing she could do was leave.) . . .
Guttmacher News Release: Title X-Supported Family Planning Services Nationally and in Each State:
Subsidized family planning services are vital to achieving important public health goals by helping millions of young and economically disadvantaged American women prevent unintended pregnancies. Women who are not using contraceptives, or who are using them inconsistently, represent one-third of all women at risk of unintended pregnancy in the United States and account for 95% of the three million unintended pregnancies that occur every year. Unintended pregnancy, in turn, has been linked with numerous negative maternal and child health outcomes. More broadly, women’s ability to rely on contraception enables them to invest in higher education and to be full participants in the nation’s workforce. . . .