Friday, March 31, 2017
New York Times (March 30, 2017): Arkansas Bans 'Sex-Selection Abortion, by Christine Hauser:
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a law banning sex-selective abortion this week. The law goes further than prior laws because it requires that doctors investigate women's pregnancy history and ask the woman questions to ensure that the woman is not ending the pregnancy in order to gender select. The law, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, requires doctors to ask a woman if she knows the gender of the fetus she is carrying and if she does, the doctor must tell her it is illegal to chose an abortion based on gender. It is a misdemeanor for doctors to fail to comply with a fine up to $2,500 and civil penalties. Doctors also risk revocation or suspension of their medical license.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, Arkansas is the 8th state to ban sex-selective abortions. The other states are Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.
Salon (March 26, 2017): Where do right wingers get all those anti-choice laws? There is literally a book, by Amanda Marcotte:
Each year, Americans United for Life (AUL), incorporated in 1971 to fight the movement to legalize abortion, publishes an annual handbook entitled "Defending Life." The handbook provides model legislation for state lawmakers eager to introduce anti-choice bills. This year, AUL faced a new challenge in figuring out how to respond to the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. The Texas law that the Court struck down in Whole Woman's Health originated in AUL's handbook and was part of AUL's strategy of promoting anti-choice legislation in the guise of protecting women's health.
In its 2017 handbook, AUL appears to be focusing on laws that promote "fetal life interest" or "fetal dignity interest." These initiatives include:
bills requiring women who have abortions or miscarriages to pay for funeral services for the fetus or embryo, bills banning abortion in the case of fetal defects and bills that would make it legal for a woman to sue an abortion doctor for “wrongful death” if she decides, after the fact, that she regrets getting an abortion.
According to Marcotte:
The authors of the 2017 edition of “Defending Life” try to strike a confident tone, but it’s clear from the model legislation itself that anti-choice activists don’t really know what to do in the aftermath of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Reading the handbook, one gets the sense that if anti-choice activists can’t stop women from getting abortions, they will just try to make the experience as punishing as possible, with waiting periods, fetus funerals and lots of scary, false information.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Business Insider (March 21, 2017): If you care about the future of abortion rights, now is a good time to worry, by Jessie B. Hill:
Although there is no immediate threat to Roe v. Wade, Professor Jessie Hill discusses why supporters of abortion rights should be worried. She writes:
But the real danger may be not so much that things will radically change – it’s that they’ll remain the same. From my vantage point as a constitutional law professor who also litigates reproductive rights cases, the landscape looks about as treacherous as it ever has.
Despite the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt last term finding two provisions of a Texas statute unconstitutional, states continue to adopt new restrictions on abortion. In 2016, 18 states adopted 50 new pieces of anti-abortion legislation. While the balancing test applied in Whole Woman's Health the Court allowed the court to take into account that there was no evidence to support the state's claim that it enacted the provisions to protect women's health in determining the benefits and burdens of the law, the test still gives judges a lot of discretion. Prof. Hill warns that "A legal test that requires balancing benefits and burdens leaves a lot of room for a judge to place a thumb on the scale." Also of concern is the deference that Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Gorsuch shows to religious rights claims as we increasingly see expansion of these claims to undermine laws that protect women and LGBTI individuals from discrimination.
Finally, Professor Hill notes that while the five judges majority in Whole Woman's Health remains on the Court, "the real turning point will likely come if and when Trump gets to make second nomination the Supreme Court."
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Mississippi Drops Defense of Admitting Privilege Requirement; Litigation on OB/GYN Requirement Continues
Rewire (March 21, 2017): Mississippi Finally Stops Defending Clinic Shutdown Law, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:
Eight months after the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, Mississippi dropped its defense of an admitting privilege requirement that would have required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The provision would have forced the only abortion clinic in Mississippi to close. Following the state's concession that it could not "identify any meaningful distinction" between the law struck down in Whole Woman's Health and the Mississippi admitting privilege requirement, the district court permanently enjoined the law.
However, litigation continues over another Mississippi law that requires that all doctors performing abortions be OB-GYNs. Mississippi is the only state with such a requirement.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Huffington Post (March 20, 2017): Women Wore 'Handmaid's Tale' Robes to the Texas Senate, by Catherine Pearson:
On Monday, a group of women arrived at the Texas Senate Chambers wearing red robes and white bonnets as a nod to characters in Margaret Atwood's book the Handmaiden's Tale. The science fiction novel describes a society where women are forced to serve as "breeders" with no rights. The activists sought to draw attention to a series of anti-abortion measures that are currently being considered by the Texas legislature. The proposed legislation includes a bill that would ban a procedure commonly used for second trimester abortions and a bill that would immunize doctors from liability if they lie to patients about detected fetal abnormalities.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
New York Times (Dec. 14, 2016): Abortion Is Found to Have Little Effect on Women’s Mental Health, by Pam Belluck:
A new study comparing women who had abortions with those who were turned away at clinics finds that women who have abortions do not experience more negative psychological effects. This finding is contrary to the familiar lore that women who have abortions experience emotional and psychological trauma and thus need mental health counseling before they undergo the procedure. Such counseling is required in twenty-two states. Conservative state legislatures have used this mythos effectively to pass a number of restrictions on abortion.
The study sought to cure some of the methodological failings of previous studies by comparing two groups of women, both of which seek abortions, rather than comparing women who desire an abortion with women who wish to carry their pregnancies to term. The test subjects were followed up every six months for five years. It turns out that women who seek abortions and are refused suffer more than anyone. They experience more anxiety, lower self-esteem, and less satisfaction than women who are able to obtain an abortion. Luckily, their mental distress is short-lived, whether they successfully seek abortion elsewhere or give birth.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Spokesman-Review (Boise) (Jan. 23, 2017): Idaho to Stop Enforcing Telemedicine Abortion Bans, by Kimberlee Kruesi:
Two laws hindering women from obtaining safe abortions have been dismantled in Idaho. The first curtailed the use of telemedicine to assist women choosing medical abortions. Telemedicine allows physicians to consult with their patients remotely. It can be especially useful in delivering medical services in rural areas. The law required a physician to be present when a patient receives abortion-inducing medication. The second law simply forbade physicians from prescribing pregnancy-ending drugs remotely.
Planned Parenthood sued Idaho to dismantle these laws. A settlement entered into between the parties requires Idaho to repeal these laws by 2017 or have them declared unconstitutional in federal court. A federal judge has already ruled that requiring a physician's physical presence imposes an undue burden on women seeking medical abortions with no counterbalancing health benefits. A similar restriction was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court in 2015.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
New York Times (Feb. 15, 2017): Human Gene Editing Receives Key Panel's Support, by Amy Harmon:
In a move that some fear heralds the era of designer babies for the very wealthy and that has led other countries to ban germ line genetic editing, a panel of influential American scientists has thrown its support behind inheritable modifications of human embryos. Although touted as a way to cure disease, many see the potential for this science to be used for more nefarious motives--enhancing mental or physical endowments, for example--that smack of eugenics.
The research is explicitly aimed at allowing parents who both carry deadly recessive traits to have children who are not afflicted by such diseases as Tay-Sachs, beta thalassemia, and Huntington's. The report calls for prohibitions on using the technology for enhancements, but it does not have any legal effect. Federal law, though, currently prohibits the use of "federal money to support research that results in genetically modified offspring."
The issue arises on the heels of technology--Crispr-Cas9--that brings germ-line genetic editing out of the realm of science fiction. The tool allows researchers to insert and delete genes more or less precisely, although the possibility remains that some DNA will be snipped off inadvertently. They will experiment first on patients with cancer and blindness using genetic alterations that are not inheritable.
Monday, March 13, 2017
New York Times (March 12, 2017), Are Your Sperm in Trouble?, by Nicholas Kristof:
Sperm is decreasing in quality and testicular cancer is on the rise. Studies show a rapid decrease in sperm quality from 2001 to 2015. Some suggest that endocrine disruptors--chemicals found in plastics are to blame. In one study of the effect of endocrine disruptors on fish, the males became intersex and incapable of reproducing.
Human reproduction might be threatened by these developments, but scientists disagree about the scale of the problem. Some believe we are are crossing the line where the question "can we sustain ourselves?" becomes relevant. After all, endocrine disruptors mimic hormones; as such they possess the power to interfere with the biological process of becoming male in the womb.
Some have taken to avoiding plastics, including the ubiquitous sales receipts produced by thermal printers. But individual action is probably not enough. The endocrine disruptor lobby in Congress mirrors the power of Big Tobacco before the regulation of smoking became a foregone conclusion.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Washington Post (March 2, 2017): Nations pledge millions after US pulls family planning funds, by Raf Casert:
In response to the Trump administration's reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule, on March 2 nations met in Brussels to determine how to fill the funding gap. Although the conference was convened at the last minute, representatives from over 50 countries attended and funding pledges approached 100 million dollars.
The Global Gag Rule adopted by the Trump administration earlier this year prohibits organizations from receiving US foreign aid funding if they counsel or discuss abortion with patients or advocate for changes in abortion law. Prior versions of the Global Gag Rule only applied to US family planning funding. The new version includes all American global health assistance. It is estimated that the rule could result in the withholding of half a billion dollars of funding a year.
World leaders at the conference expressed concern that Trump's policies will severely undermine access to family planning in developing nations and will actually increase abortions because of the increase in unwanted pregnancies.