Thursday, November 30, 2017
Mother Jones (Nov. 29, 2017): Internal Emails Reveal How the Trump Administration Blocks Abortions for Migrant Teens, by Hannah Levintova and Pema Levy:
Jane Doe isn't the only teenage immigrant the Trump administration has tried to prevent from obtaining an abortion.
While the ACLU represented Doe in her ultimately successfully case to get an abortion, they continue to fight a class-action for other similarly-situation teens. These teens are pregnant and in government custody with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The ORR contracts with local shelters to house the minors.
The director of the ORR, Scott Lloyd, is an anti-abortion activist who has "changed ORR policy to prevent pregnant teens at these shelters from obtaining abortions."
As part of the ongoing lawsuit, the ACLU has obtained government emails showing the lengths to which the current administration will go to prevent an unaccompanied minor from seeking an abortion.
For example, ORR temporarily halted a medication abortion for one pregnant minor halfway through the procedure. In another case, ORR suggested that a pregnant minor scheduled for discharge from the shelter not be released until she had been counseled against receiving an abortion.
The ACLU says the government's efforts amount to a violation of the minors' Constitutional rights and defy Supreme Court precedent such as Roe v. Wade, which states the government cannot ban abortion. "They are effectively banning abortion for Jane Doe. I am still in shock that this is happening,” says Brigitte Amiri, a lead attorney for the ACLU.
One of the emails, published here, includes a redacted sender questioning whether the ORR's methods of approving (or not approving) a minor's pursuit of a judicial bypass are legal. A judicial bypass allows a minor who would otherwise need a guardian's permission for an abortion to get a court's approval to seek and receive an abortion without such parental or guardian permission.
The redacted email sender says:
My understanding is that the judicial bypass was created specifically so that the young lady does not need approval from her guardian (in our case the Director of ORR) to move forward with a term of pregnancy. Has this policy been vetted by your legal department? I anticipate there would be legal challenges to this policy.
Minors represented in this case have received judicial bypasses for their abortions from the courts, however the emails show that ORR nevertheless instructed the shelters not to allow it. It's unclear how those situations were resolved.
The release of these emails makes the government's targeted policies very clear, as the ACLU continues to fight for the Constitutional rights of unaccompanied and undocumented minors.
Monday, November 27, 2017
CNN (Nov. 24, 2017): Federal judge strikes down Texas abortion ban, by Meg Wagner
Last Wednesday a federal district court judge overturned a controversial law in Texas which "banned doctors from performing dilation and evacuation abortions," a common abortion procedure typically done during a second-trimester abortion and the most common type of abortion procedure after 15 weeks.
Judge Lee Yeakel wrote, "that a woman may make the decision to have an abortion before a fetus may survive outside her womb is solely and exclusively the woman's decision. The power to make this decision is her right."
The bill prohibited doctors from performing dilation and evacuation abortions unless they first stopping the fetus's heartbeat using another method. Many abortion providers challenged the law after it was signed by the governor in June of 2017. They argued that by banning this type of abortion procedure, women would have to seek more risky procedures.
The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, says he plans to appeal Judge Yeakel's decision all the way to the Supreme Court if needed. Paxton stated, "during a five-day trial this month in district court, we created a record unlike any other in exposing the horrors of dismemberment abortions. No just society should tolerate the tearing of living human beings to pieces."
Sunday, November 19, 2017
New York Times (Nov. 15, 2017): Tech Companies Get High Marks for Covering Infertility Treatments, by Ann Carrns:
With demand for techniques like in vitro fertilization on the rise, information about the insurance coverage available in the workplace becomes more critical. Given that a cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) can cost in excess of $20,000 in some instances and that multiple cycles are often required before success is achieved, most companies provide their workers with minimal or no coverage for infertility treatments. A new survey of 250 large employers reveals that companies in the technology, consulting and banking sectors offer generous coverage for costly assisted reproduction procedures. Facebook, for example, covers four cycles of IVF and genetic counseling, a $100,000 value.
The survey, compiled and published by FertilityIQ, ranks employers in areas including the value of the benefits offered and whether preauthorization rules block access to single women or same-sex couples. Microsoft, for example, requires no such preauthorization.
Companies that offer generous benefits for infertility treatment describe themselves as family friendly. The bottom line, however, is a desire to recruit and retain talented employees.
Friday, November 17, 2017
The New York Times (Nov. 10, 2017): Facebook is Ignoring Anti-Abortion Fake News, by Rossalyn Warren
As Facebook addresses the role of "fake news" on its platform, largely in relation to the 2016 election and Russian political propaganda, another potentially more difficult concern arises. The spread of false reproductive rights and health news is widespread and often harder for Facebook to spot (and manage).
Facebook’s current initiatives to crack down on fake news can, theoretically, be applicable to misinformation on other issues. However, there are several human and technical barriers that prevent misinformation about reproductive rights from being identified, checked and removed at the same — already slow — rate as other misleading stories.
Identifying a fake news sources is not always straightforward. The social media giant says it often targets "spoof" sites that mimic legitimate news sources. But misleading anti-abortion sites can be hazier to identify. They generally publish original pieces, but often alongside inaccurate facts or with poor sourcing, which "helps blur the line between what’s considered a news blog and 'fake news.'"
Facebook aims to limit fake news by making it more difficult for these sources to buy ads or generate spam. "Most false news is financially motivated," Facebook says. This is not often the case with anti-abortion advocates, though, who are overwhelmingly driven by strong religious or political beliefs. The goal isn't profit but persuasion.
Many are concerned that misinformation regarding reproductive rights and abortion in particular may detrimentally affect current political movements. Ireland plans to hold a referendum next year regarding whether to lessen the country's strict abortion regulations. Pro-choice advocates are worried that the rapid spread of abortion-related misinformation on Facebook (like a purported causal link between abortion and breast cancer) may affect the vote.
Facebook has yet, though, to directly address concerns over this type of scientific misinformation in the same way they have begun to address fake news about last year's election.
November 17, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers
Los Angeles Times (Nov. 13, 2017): Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers, by David G. Savage:
The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to hear NIFLA vs. Becerra, in which an anti-abortion group challenges a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers contraception and abortion services.
The case centers on the Reproductive FACT Act, which requires pregnancy centers to disclose whether they have a medical license and whether medical professionals are available. The law also requires centers to post a notice in the waiting room that reads: "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, pre-natal care and abortion."
California lawmakers passed the disclosure law two years ago after concluding as many as 200 pregnancy centers in the state sometimes used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women” about their options for medical care.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) represents 110 pregnancy centers in California that all claim the disclosure provision violates their free speech as "compelled speech." Such a disclosure, they claim, conflicts with their faith-based goal of encouraging childbirth and preventing abortion.
The Californian pregnancy centers initially lost their case under three federal district judges. On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court upheld the lower court's decision. Last month, however, a judge in Riverside County ruled that the law violated the free-speech provisions of California's own state Constitution.
California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra stands by the disclosure provision and its intent to provide women accurate information about their health care options.
It takes five justices for a majority opinion, and many expect the Court's decision to turn on the vote of Justice Kennedy.
November 14, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Sexual Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean Takes Center Stage At The Inter-American Commission On Human Rights
Center for Reproductive Rights (Oct. 26, 2017): Sexual Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean Takes Center Stage At The Inter-American Commission On Human Rights
In late October advocates for human rights, reproductive rights, and child and adolescent rights gathered together in Uruguay to testify "on the failure of governments to condemn sexual violence and provide access to justice for adolescents and girls."
The Commission was presented with a declaration signed by over 100 organizations calling for the Commission to hold countries accountable for having policies which provide justice for sexual violence survivors, and policies that would ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of women.
"The declaration specifically calls for the elimination of legal and administrative barriers to sexual and reproductive health services and the development of specific protocols to provide redress for victims of sexual violence, including reparation."
Catalina Martínez Coral, the regional director for Latin America & the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated
“Too many young girls and women who experience sexual violence are oppressed, stigmatized and denied access to justice.
“Survivors of sexual violence should never feel alone or silenced and it’s time for states to provide channels for women and girls to get the medical services and support services they need without fear.
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must call on states to take meaningful action to prevent sexual violence and prioritize reproductive health and rights.”
During the hearing video testimony was shown. The videos displayed the "harsh reality" of being a survivor of sexual violence and how being a survivor often leads to further discrimination and violence. This in combination with the lack of reproductive health care leads to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and higher risk of STIs.
Currently, litigation is pending with the Commission for a case filed in 2015 on behalf of an Ecuadorian teenager who was sexually assaulted by her school's vice-principal and later committed suicide after learning she was pregnant.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Bustle (Nov. 8, 2017): These 2017 Election Winners Backed Reproductive Rights — And You Can Thank Women For That, by Lauren Holter:
Earlier this week, advocates for reproductive rights won many state and local elections. Planned Parenthood's director of political communications, said "voters spoke really loud and clear that they want to see women’s rights protected."
In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, who was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, won the governor's race against Republican Ed Gillespie who has previously stated that he would like to see abortion banned. The winner of the lieutenant governor's seat beat out a candidate who had sponsored a bill which would have required women to have a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion. In the Virginia House of Delegates, Democrats took back the majority by flipping 14 seats, the majority of which were won by women.
In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy “trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno” for the governor’s seat. Chris Christie, the current New Jersey Governor, has recently rid family planning services from the state’s budget. Murphy during his campaign promised to support family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood, while Guadagno stated that “she wouldn’t restore family planning funds if elected.”
In the state of Washington, Manka Dhingra's campaign focussed on reproductive health care. She won her state senate race giving Democrats the majority. Dhingra has previously said, “women need to be able to make their own health care choices and part of that means ensuring access to affordable, reliable contraception, and equal access to all reproductive options.”
These wins come just a few months after leaders of the Democratic Party “wouldn’t have a litmus test on abortion in 2018.” The victories from Tuesday night prove that candidates who “champion abortion access” can win elections.
Women Democrats also won is several mayoral elections across the country. “While none of these women explicitly ran on reproductive rights platforms (and most abortion legislation happens on the state level), more Democratic women in office typically means more people publicly advocating for women’s rights.”
Maya Rupert, senior director of policy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, emphasizes the importance of representation, stating “And the fact that multiple cities have elected female leaders represents a huge opportunity to center the issue of reproductive rights at the local level.”
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
thebmjopinion (Nov. 1, 2017): The global abortion policies database - legal knowledge as a health intervention, by Joanna Erdman:
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs have launched the Global Abortion Policies Database. The database is an open-access repository of abortion laws, policies, standards and guidelines from 197 countries. According to Joanna Erdman:
The breadth of abortion law captured in the database is one of its key innovations. Global abortion maps and other collections tend to focus on the legal grounds for abortion, classifying countries on this basis. The database provides a more comprehensive picture, capturing a range of “policy domains” (legal grounds, gestational limits, authorization and service delivery requirements), as well as, the complexities and subtleties of regulation in multiple and sometimes conflicting standards or sub-national variation. Moreover, while abortion was historically addressed in penal codes, these have been increasingly replaced or supplemented by health legislation, constitutional court decisions, and other forms of soft regulation such as clinical guidelines and medical ethics codes. The database captures these many sources of regulation, and thereby dispels the myth of a single “abortion law.”
Erdman also notes that the European Court and other human rights bodies and courts have recognized state obligations to create regulatory frameworks for lawful abortion. The database can help governments meet these obligations by linking country profiles with with human rights standards, allowing easier comparisons across countries and geographic regions and supporting "community actors to hold governments accountable for gaps between these entitlements and abortion practice on the ground."
Monday, November 6, 2017
San Antonio Current (Nov. 2, 2017): Texas' Ban on Safe Abortion Procedure Goes to Court, by Alex Zielinski
The trial fighting Texas' latest anti-abortion law, Senate Bill 8, began last week. Whole Woman's Health sued Texas in July after the governor signed SB 8 into law.
SB 8 would completely prohibit dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedures, require clinics to bury the remains of any abortion, and prohibit hospitals from donating aborted fetal tissue to medical research.
The current lawsuit, though, only challenges the ban on D&E abortions. Dilation and evacuation abortions are considered one of the safest procedures for abortions after 13 weeks. The ban does not allow for exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. The only alternatives to a D&E procedure for a woman seeking an abortion are either inducing labor and forcing delivery of the fetus or a surgery similar to a hysterectomy. Both options are risky and expensive.
In August, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the law from going into effect on September 1. On November 2, the plaintiffs returned to Judge Yeakel's courtroom to request the bill's D&E ban be permanently blocked.
Yeakel has thus far supported a woman's constitutionally-protected right to abortion, saying: "The state cannot pursue its interest in a way that denies a woman her constitutionally protected rights to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus is viable."
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor
ABC News (Nov. 3, 2017): Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor by, Geneva Sands
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court today asking for possible disciplinary action against the attorneys that represented an undocumented minor who had an abortion over objections from the Trump administration.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of 17-year-old Jane Doe. Doe learned she was pregnant after being placed in a detention facility for children under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. She says she knew immediately that an abortion was the right option for her.
Doe, represented by the ACLU, had been fighting the federal government to be granted a medical visit to a clinic to receive her abortion. The government had instead taken her against her wishes to a pro-life clinic that tried to persuade her not to abort and showed her sonograms against her will.
Doe was finally able to get her abortion on October 25.
The Trump administration has now accused the ACLU of misleading the government on the timing of Doe's abortion. They claim that after informing Justice Department attorneys that the teen's procedure would occur on October 26th, Doe's attorneys actually scheduled it for early on October 25, thereby avoiding Supreme Court review.
Government attorneys allege that the ACLU, while advocating for their client, violated their duties to the court and to the Bar. The administration believes the judgment under review that enabled Doe to receive the abortion should be vacated and additionally seeks potential disciplinary action against Doe's attorneys.
In response, the ACLU says the government failed to file a timely review with the Supreme Court and that Doe's attorneys acted both in the best interest of their client and "in full compliance with the court orders and federal and Texas law."
According to Jane herself:
"I’m a 17-year-old girl that came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of. I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly," she wrote. "This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice," she concluded.