Thursday, October 4, 2018

Abortion Rights Got Two Important Legal Wins Last Week

Rewire.News (Oct. 1, 2018): Abortion Rights Got Two Important Legal Wins Last Week, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:

 A Federal court in Kentucky ruled a 1998 state law aimed at limiting abortion clinics unconstitutional. 

The law requires abortion clinics to have written transfer agreements with ambulance services and hospitals, often referred to as "transfer and transport" requirements.  Even though the state's last abortion clinic (and a plaintiff in the lawsuit) has been able to maintain the licensure required by the law--and so stay open--the court agreed with the clinic's argument that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has used the law as a tool to try to cut off abortion access. 

Judge Greg Stivers ruled:

The court has carefully reviewed the evidence presented in this case and concludes that the record is devoid of any credible proof that the challenged regulations have any tangible benefit to women’s health.  The regulations effectively eliminate women’s right to abortions in the state. Therefore, the challenged regulations are unconstitutional.

The judge affirmed that “the challenged regulations are not medically necessary and do absolutely nothing to further the health and safety of women seeking abortions in the Commonwealth of Kentucky." The decision is expected to be appealed in the 6th Circuit. 

A federal court in Virginia also ruled last week that that a similar lawsuit challenging the state's anti-choice licensing and oversight restrictions can move forward. 

 

October 4, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Medical News, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh

Rewire.News (Sept. 25, 2018): Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh, by Katelyn Burns: 

Even before last week's hearing for Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, indigenous groups in Alaska have been voicing their opposition to the Judge's confirmation. 

Alaskan sexual assault survivors--many of whom are Natives--are calling on Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to vote "no" on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination this week. Activists have also been protesting at Senator Dan Sullivan's office (R-AK), however, unlike Senator Murkowski, he announced his support for Kavanaugh shortly after the nomination in July. 

Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in Native American communities. Natives, including Alaskan women, suffer from rape and sexual assault in staggeringly disproportionate numbers with little access to justice. 

"According to the 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey, 50 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both." Furthermore, 97 percent of Native Alaskan sexual assault survivors suffered the violence at the hands of non-Native perpetrators. Notably, tribal justice systems cannot prosecute non-Natives for sexual assault.

Survivors are also speaking out in defense of Dr. Ford's delay in coming out publicly with her allegations. “Most of the time we would be blamed for being provocative in some way. So I can understand why someone would wait years to bring up a sexual assault," said one Alaskan Native survivor. 

Native communities also oppose Kavanaugh's nomination on his views of Native rights generally and his misunderstanding of tribal history and government systems. 

October 2, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Medical News, Politics, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld

NOLA.com (Sep. 27, 2018): Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld, by The Associated Press:

A panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Louisiana law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals does not violate the constitutional right to abortion.

The 2-1 ruling from the 5th Circuit panel notes Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, but the majority found Louisiana's law does not impose the same "substantial burden" on women as the Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The ruling reversed a Baton Rouge-based federal judge's ruling in the case and ordered the lawsuit by opponents of the law dismissed.

"Almost all Texas hospitals required that for a doctor to maintain privileges there, he or she had to admit a minimum number of patients annually," Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote in the opinion joined by Judge Edith Brown Clement. "Few Louisiana hospitals made that demand."

The law's immediate effects are unclear as to the three abortion clinics that court records indicate operate in Louisiana -- in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport.

Opponents of the law have argued it would make it very difficult or impossible for many to obtain abortion care in Louisiana, saying the law could result in one or two clinic closures and, eventually, a loss of access to abortion by 70 percent of individuals seeking abortion care in Louisiana.

Judge Smith rejected that argument. His opinion didn't attack the district judge's decision that the law's benefits were minimal. Instead, he wrote that the 2017 ruling, by Judge John deGravelles, exaggerated the burden on women seeking an abortion. He found no evidence that any Louisiana clinics will close because of the law, stating that there is only one doctor at one clinic who currently is unable to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If he stops performing the procedure, Smith wrote, it would affect "at most, only 30 percent of women, and even then, not substantially."

The dissenting judge, Patrick Higginbotham, took his colleagues to task, saying they retried the case after the district judge had given full consideration to the facts. "At the outset," he wrote, "I fail to see how a statute with no medical benefit that is likely to restrict access to abortion can be considered anything but 'undue."

 

September 28, 2018 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Students Fought For Abortion Access On California Campuses. Now It's Jerry Brown's Turn.

Refinery29 (Sep. 25, 2018): Students Fought For Abortion Access On California Campuses. Now It's Gov. Brown's Turn, by Phoebe Abramowitz:

California Governor Jerry Brown could implement a historic expansion of abortion access for California university students by signing SB 320 into law and bringing medication abortion to student health centers at California public universities by 2022.

The measure was introduced in February 2017 by state Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Inland Empire) and passed the state senate in January 2018. After passing the state assembly this past August, it now sits on Governor Brown's desk.

In California, the push for access to medication abortion on college campuses began with Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ), a student organization at UC Berkeley, which started pushing for more access to health care on campus in 2016. Although their advocacy efforts on campus resulted in significant pushback and little administrative support, SURJ continued to advocate for more inclusive health-care services on campus, eventually focusing on advocacy for SB 320.

Abramowitz, a UC Berkeley senior organizing with SURJ at Berkeley and the justCARE campaign, writes that "students from across the state have been consistently organizing in support of SB 320 since the bill’s inception" and that if  "the legislature trusts students to make choices for ourselves," then so should Governor Brown.

Currently, students face significant and unnecessary barriers to medication abortion, Abramowitz writes. No California public university currently offers medication abortion in its student health center. Under this system, students have had to miss class and work, wait weeks for their referral appointment, and pull together hundreds of dollars. Students have to travel to an off-campus clinic and navigate bureaucratic and logistical hurdles in the process of referral to a new provider. Barriers like this disproportionately impact low-income students and students of color. SB 320, Abramowitz argues, would provide resources that "will have a tangible impact on students’ experiences."

Support for SB 320 extends beyond college campuses. A recent poll found that seven in ten women and nearly two thirds (64%) of all Californians support students who choose to terminate their pregnancies being able to get their medication on campus.

Student leaders said some of the strongest opposition against SB 320 behind closed doors comes from administrators within the UC system, which contains campuses such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. Campus officials have not taken a public stance against the bill.

September 26, 2018 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 24, 2018

How safe are abortion rights in New York if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed?

Albany Times-Union (Sept. 18, 2018): How safe are abortion rights in NY if Kavanaugh is confirmed?, by Bethany Bump:

New York legalized abortion in 1970, becoming the second state in the United States to broadly legalize abortion care and the first state in the nation to legalize it for out-of-state residents.

At the time, the law was seen as liberal, but no longer, according to legal scholars and experts. As confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh proceed in the U.S. Senate and the fate of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance, New York's abortion laws have received increased attention at the state and local level.

"There has been a dramatic increase by states in the last decade to try to test the boundaries of the nation's abortion law, and it seemed to be in anticipation of changes on the Supreme Court," said Andy Ayers, director of Albany Law School's Government Law Center.

Though a common assumption is that New York is generally safe from federal rollbacks on progressive issues, a policy brief authored by Ayers and published last week by Albany Law School and the Rockefeller Institute of Government highlights exactly why that might not be the case when it comes to abortion rights.

Under New York penal law, abortion is technically a crime. The 1970 law that legalized abortion simply made the procedure a "justifiable" crime under two specific circumstances: when it is performed within 24 weeks of conception or when it is performed to save a woman's life. The law contains no health exception or any other exception (such as when the fetus is nonviable) from the 24-week restriction. However, the Supreme Court later ruled in Roe and in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that denying a health exception or forcing women to carry nonviable fetuses to term constitute unconstitutional restrictions on access to abortion care.

In 1994, the New York Court of Appeals wrote that "the fundamental right of reproductive choice, inherent in the due process liberty right guaranteed by our state constitution, is at least as extensive as the federal constitutional right," and went on to cite both Roe and Casey

"In lawyer terms, this was 'dicta,' meaning non-binding," said Ayers, who is an adviser to the Rockefeller Institute's Center for Law and Policy Solutions. "But to me, it's very, very hard to imagine that our Court of Appeals would find it permissible to restrict abortion in a way that Roe would not have allowed."

Although legal experts agree it's unconstitutional for New York to deny late-term abortions to women to protect their health or when the fetus is nonviable, those exceptions remain a gray area to some medical professionals.

The law governing abortion in New York exists within the state's penal code, meaning violators could face criminal punishment rather than civil liability. Some doctors in New York have urged some patients to seek a late-term abortion in another state.

The Reproductive Health Act, a bill that was introduced in the state Legislature in 2017 to bring New York's abortion law in line with Roe and Casey, would lessen this effect by moving abortion statutes out of state penal law and into the state's public health law. It would also expand the types of medical professionals allowed to perform abortions to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

As President Donald Trump prepared to announce Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee this summer, and amid pressure on the left from Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke out against Republican state senators who have refused to pass the bill.

Other states have had better luck amending their abortion laws as the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court faces its most significant shift since the Second World War. Massachusetts recently amended its laws to bolster abortion protections, while at least fifteen states have passed laws in recent years that would prohibit abortion should the Supreme Court overturn Roe.

"If a significant number of other states start prohibiting abortion or making it hard to access," Ayers said, "we may see people come into New York to get abortions again, just like they did in the '70s."

This past Thursday, the New York City Council Committee on Women, chaired by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, held a hearing on the current status of reproductive rights and access to abortion services in New York City. The Committee heard Council Resolution 84, introduced by Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Rosenthal, and Council Member Justin Brannan, which urges the State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, the Reproductive Health Act. Abortion rights advocates testified at the hearing, including Cynthia Soohoo, Co-Director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY School of Law. More information about the hearing, including video of the hearing, can be found here.

September 24, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Congress, In the Courts, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?

Daily Intelligencer (Sept. 20, 2018): Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?, by Ed Kilgore:

Kilgore writes for New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer responding in part to conservative Ross Douthat's New York Times piece claiming that the current allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are harmful to the "pro-life" movement. 

Kilgore says that despite the arguments of many anti-abortion activists that their purported moral high ground turns on fetal personhood or the rights of the unborn, "the prevailing sentiment among abortion rights activists is that the anti-abortion movement is just applied misogyny." 

Anti-abortion work generally is rooted in a position that elevates the patriarchy and promotes "fear of women's sexuality and autonomy."

Kilgore highlights that Douthat interestingly links anti-abortion work with anti-feminism. Douthat is concerned that confirming Kavanaugh amidst the #metoo movement generally and his allegations of sexual assault specifically might "cement a perception that’s fatal to the pro-life movement’s larger purposes — the perception that you can’t be pro-woman and pro-life."

Even if many Republicans (in particular, Republican women) have identified with the labels pro-woman and pro-life, there is no longer any Republican party-wide commitment to the pro-woman side of the pairing, Kilgore says. 

Ross Douthat is right to worry that it’s getting harder every day to disassociate pro-life from anti-woman views. It’s certainly getting harder for me to believe that anti-abortion activists care more about saving embryos than about shackling women.

September 21, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Women--and Robust Reproductive Rights--Are Key to Solving Climate Crisis

Sierra (Sept. 18, 2018): Climate Activists Say Women Are Key to Solving the Climate Crisis, by Wendy Becktold: 

Last week, San Francisco hosted the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). The three-day conference brought together heads of state, policy makers, scientists, and leaders from civil society to discuss clean energy and averting catastrophic climate change. One of the recurring topics focused on the necessity of investing in women's rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, in combating climate crises. 

Decades of research indicate that investing in women's rights can dramatically contribute to addressing both development and climate challenges around the globe. In particular, access to education and robust reproductive rights strengthens opportunities for women worldwide. Supporting women is proven to translate to more sustainable development including the promotion of clean energy over fossil fuels.

"Access to reproductive health services is...key to reducing pressure on natural resources." A lack of access to contraception, for example, leads to many millions of unplanned pregnancies, which in turn can prevent women from creating the productive and sustainable systems they would otherwise be able to contribute to. Better education can also reduce birth rates and further improve the livelihood of women around the world.

In poorer parts of the world, women produce 60-80 percent of food crops. Providing women with better education and resources such as access to small business loans (like their male counterparts often have) could could reduce the number of people who go hungry around the world by 150 million. 

Many summit conversations at the conference, in addition to countless side events, highlighted the shared frustrations of women around the world.

Some climate activists found the summit’s emphasis on high tech solutions exasperating. 'There’s often a focus on techno fixes,' said Burns [of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization], 'when for years, we’ve been saying that investing in women’s human rights is how we can address climate change. There is still this huge disconnect between the rhetoric and the solutions that are coming from feminists and frontline voices.'

"Women are also disproportionately affected by climate change," in part because global warming reaches the impoverished first and most people living in poverty are women. 

The conversations at the GCAS highlighted how integral reproductive rights and support of women's opportunities are to innumerable issues. The ripple-effect of guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights, the research shows, extends far past simply being able to plan a pregnancy; such support builds up communities around the globe, reduces poverty, and has the power to fight behemoth challenges like climate change as well. 

September 19, 2018 in Conferences and Symposia, Contraception, International, Miscellaneous, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Planned Parenthood’s Next President: An Immigrant Doctor of Color Who Grew Up on Medicaid

Slate (Sept. 12, 2018): Planned Parenthood’s Next President: An Immigrant Doctor of Color Who Grew Up on Medicaid, by Christina Cauterucci:

Planned Parenthood announced in September that its new president, Leana Wen, will start in November. Wen currently serves as Baltimore's health commissioner and is also an emergency room physician. She will be the second doctor to head the organization and the first one to do so in 50 years.

"In both her career and her lived experience, Wen is a near-perfect embodiment of the organization’s core concerns, client base, and trajectory." Wen left China for the United States as a political asylum-seeker when she was eight years old. Growing up in poverty in California, she relied on Medicaid and Planned Parenthood for her health care, and gave back as a medical student by volunteering with Planned Parenthood as well. 

In her current role as health commissioner of Baltimore, Wen has contributed both to reducing infant mortality and to fighting against disparate racial treatment in the health care system. 

After 10 years of leadership focusing on the political side of the organization under Cecile Richards, Wen is expected to emphasize the legitimacy of the medical branch of Planned Parenthood while also continuing to bolster PP's political activism. 

While the majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood, it's often considered a political body and branch of the Democratic party above all else. "Wen will be well-positioned to make the medical case for practices like telemedicine abortions," among other services Planned Parenthood offers and causes it supports. 

That Planned Parenthood chose as its next leader a young immigrant woman of color who grew up on Medicaid and has worked to combat health inequities is a testament to the organization’s semi-recent rebranding as one committed to not only reproductive choice but reproductive justice, an ethos that prioritizes equal access to care and includes related issues like mass incarceration and poverty. The organization came under fire in 2014 when several reproductive justice advocacy groups accused it of engaging in “the co-optation and erasure” of work done by women of color in the field by claiming the mantle of reproductive justice without crediting those who’d pioneered the framework. It has been working to shake that reputation ever since.

In hiring Wen, the organization seems to hope to cement their relevancy in the reproductive justice world, re-focusing on intersectionality in the movement as well as making the case for the medical necessity of Planned Parenthood in a country facing growing threats to reproductive rights. 

September 14, 2018 in Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Northern Ireland women may not be able to access abortion pills in England

BBC News (Sept. 13, 2018): NI women may not be able to access abortion pills in England, by Emma Vardy:

Women from Northern Ireland who travel to Britain for abortion care may not be able to access abortion pills. On average, each week 28 women travel from Northern Ireland to England for abortion care because, unlike the rest of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

England allows women to take medication abortion at home, but patients may have to prove residency before being able to do so.

Northern Irish Labour MP Stella Creasy has backed access to the pills for women in NI. Speaking in the Commons, she said: "In Scotland there is a residency test for the abortion pill, which if it is copied in England would deny women coming from Northern Ireland this choice of procedure. 

"Let's get on and give our Northern Irish sisters the right to access healthcare and abortion at home, just as our sisters around the rest of the UK have."

The Department for Health only has the power to approve English homes as a place patients can legally take the abortion pill, according to Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Women and Equalities. However, Ms. Atkins said the definition of what "home" means is yet to be clarified.

"Officials are working with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to determine protocol which will set out criteria for which places should be covered by the term 'home'... We will look at how the (early abortion pill) schemes are working in Scotland and Wales and learn from the experience there."

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion is illegal in most circumstances. Previous attempts to change the law were blocked within the Northern Ireland Assembly, but there may now be enough support among Assembly members to overturn the ban. However, the devolved NI government has not sat since power-sharing collapsed in January 2017.

In June, UK Supreme Court judges said that Northern Ireland's abortion law violates human rights and called the current ban "untenable."

Ms. Atkins said: "We call upon those representatives in Northern Ireland to get their act together and get the Assembly working again so that Northern Ireland people can make their decision."

September 13, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Kavanaugh 'abortion-inducing drug' comment draws scrutiny

CNN (Sept. 7, 2018): Kavanaugh 'abortion-inducing drug' comment draws scrutiny, by Ariane de Vogue & Veronica Stracqualursi:

Brett Kavanaugh's views on birth control drew scrutiny on Thursday as abortion rights advocates charged that the Supreme Court nominee referred to contraceptives as "abortion-inducing drugs."

The controversy came as Kavanaugh discussed Priests for Life v. HHS, a case involving the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the Affordable Care Act in which Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion. The government's regulations included a requirement that all employers provide their employees with health insurance that covers all forms of FDA-approved birth control, including birth control pills, IUDs, and hormonal injections. In his dissent, Kavanaugh expressed sympathy for the religious challengers.

Asked about the case by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Kavanaugh said he believed "that was a group that was being forced to provide certain kind of health coverage over their religious objection to their employees. And under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was first, was this a substantial burden on the religious exercise? And it seemed to me quite clearly it was."

"It was a technical matter of filling out a form in that case," he continued. "In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."

Although no senators present at the hearing questioned Kavanaugh's usage of the term "abortion-inducing drugs," abortion rights advocates said Kavanaugh mischaracterized the case and also used a controversial term used by groups opposed to abortion.

"The argument for the lawyers of Priests for Life was that they objected to all birth control," Beth Lynk, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "In Kavanaugh's testimony his description of their objection characterized all types of birth control as 'abortion inducing drugs.'"
 
"In reaching for a term to describe all types of birth control, the word he chose was 'abortion inducing drugs,"' she said.
 
"Saying 'abortion-inducing drugs' to describe contraception is straight out of the anti-choice, anti-science phrase book used to restrict women's access to essential health care," the Center for Reproductive Rights said on Twitter Thursday.
 
Kavanaugh used similar language to answer on Thursday to describe the Priests for Life position in his 2015 dissent.
 
"By regulation, that insurance must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including certain methods of birth control that, some believe, operate as abortifacients and result in the destruction of embryos," he wrote.
 

September 11, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

India Strikes Down Colonial-Era Ban on Gay Sex

The New York Times (Sept. 6, 2018): India Strikes Down Colonial-Era Ban on Gay Sex, by Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz, and Suhasini Raj:

India's Supreme Court unanimously struck down a ban on consensual gay sex, a remnant of the country's colonial past and one of the oldest bans of its kind. The Court called the law "irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary." 

The Court's decision came after weeks of deliberation, years of legal arguments, and decades of activism. Human rights advocates in India and around the world celebrated as India joined the growing list of countries granting full rights to gay-identifying people. Similar laws have been overturned in the United States, Canada, England, and Nepal, among others. 

In 2009, a court in New Delhi had ruled that the law could not be applied to consensual sex, but religious resistance to this decision followed by an appeal led to the restoration of the full law in 2013. The court deferred at that point to the Parliament and claimed the law only applied to a "minuscule fraction of the country."

In 2016, activists rallied five brave plaintiffs identifying as gay and lesbian Indians who alleged their rights to equality and liberty were violated under the law (Section 377). Eventually, more than two dozen additional Indians joined the case while it was pending before the Supreme Court.

The September 2018 decision struck down the prohibition against gay sex, and the Court also made illegal all discrimination based on sexuality, extending "all constitutional protections under Indian law" to gay people.

The law was written in the mid-19th century and applied to "unnatural sexual acts." The law, which criminalized people who engaged in "intercourse against the order of nature," remains on the books to apply to cases of bestiality, for example, but now no longer can be used against consensual sex. “'History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights,' Justice Indu Malhotra said."

Menaka Guruswamy was one of the lead attorneys representing the petitioners. This decision is a "huge win" she said. The lawyers' arguments centered on the legal issues but also embraced pleas to the Justices to recognize the humanity of those who have been affected by Section 377 for decades.

The law is notably a vestige of British colonialism. Hinduism, the dominant religion in India, is generally permissive of same-sex relationships, but levels of tolerance were eviscerated under British rule. The British leaders implemented Section 377, which imposed a life sentence on those in violation. While the law has been greatly limited, India remains a conservative country in many ways, and fundamentalist groups across religions--Hindu, Muslim, and Christian--protested the decision.

In recent years, though, many more Indians have come out, identifying publicly as gay, lesbian, and transgender. Now that these lifestyles are no longer criminalized, Indian activists hope that many more Indians will come out and be embraced by their country. 

September 8, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Courts, International, Politics, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Chicago Panel focuses on intersectionality of LGBTQ, reproductive rights

Windy City Times (Sept. 4, 2018): Panel focuses on intersectionality of LGBTQ, reproductive rights, by Carrie Maxwell: 

Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy hosted a panel discussion in Chicago at the end of August to discuss the intersection of LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Cassidy identified these rights as forming the basis of "her life's work" and asked the panelists how the two issues intersect with one another and are viewed by society.

The panel included Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt, Planned Parenthood Illinois Director of Community Engagement and Adolescent Health Initiatives B. Deonn Strathman, NARAL Pro-Choice America Field Organizer Nick Uniejewski and Howard Brown Health Women's Health Manager Amy Miller.

The panelists agreed that these discussions--and making them LGBTQ-friendly--are especially integral for youth. "Destigmatizing sex education is vital for everyone's well being," said Uniejewski of NARAL. 

Hunt explained that "everyone has multiple identities," and recognized that today's young people are better at breaking down barriers that have previously existed between separate movements. Intersectionality necessarily breeds conversations about the power dynamics among people, too, which should not be ignored in the quest to bring various movements in solidarity with each other. 

The panel also discussed "crisis pregnancy centers" and how their work has been detrimental to the reproductive rights community, largely due to the false or incomplete information these centers offer. "Miller explained that one of the ways to remove these center's power is by overturning the Hyde Amendment." The Hyde Amendment is a provision, passed in 1976,  that bars the use of federal funds for abortion procedures unless the women's life is at risk or if the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape. 

The panelists all agreed that halting Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court is of primary importance for activists today. 

September 7, 2018 in Abortion, Conferences and Symposia, Current Affairs, Lectures and Workshops, Politics, Public Opinion, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

'Reversing Roe' Trailer Explores the Politicization of the Abortion Debate

The Hollywood Reporter (Sept. 4, 2018): 'Reversing Roe' Trailer Explores the Politicization of the Abortion Debate, by Rebecca Ford:

The first trailer for Reversing Roe debuted on Tuesday, exploring the lasting effects and debate surrounding the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which ruled that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.

The Netflix documentary, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, is helmed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, and has the backing of former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis and executive producer Eva Longoria.

The trailer for the Netflix film lands on the same day as the Senate hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade is expected to be a key issue in Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Democrats have stated that he would play a key role in curtailing abortion rights.

Reversing Roe will premiere on Netflix on Sept. 13. Watch the new trailer below:

 

September 6, 2018 in Abortion, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

336 Law Professors Write Letter Opposing Kavanaugh's Nomination

Law professors around the country joined together in penning a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urging them to vote "no" on Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. 

The letter highlights the imminent danger to reproductive health should Kavanaugh be confirmed.  He would be expected to vote in support of efforts to overturn long established reproductive-rights precedents like Roe. Although Kavanaugh has publicly stated his support for stare decisis, the authors note that justices who support precedent do not always shy away from overturning it.

The overturning of Roe or Casey--both of which upheld the right to choose and based their decisions on the importance of protecting the principle that "matters involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime...are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment"--could also implicate harmful shifts in the subsequently upheld rights to privacy relating to parenting, family planning, and same sex relationships. 

In 1965, the lawyers cite, "illegal abortion in the United States accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth." As officially reported numbers, the actual mortality rate due to illegal abortion was likely much higher. 

The threat to reproductive health and freedom is particularly acute for women of color, poor women, and rural women, the attorneys point out, citing disparate access to quality medical care based on racial and class lines as well as the heightened maternal mortality rate for black women

The letter states that women in Maine and Alaska in particular may be heavily affected, as both states are large and have "widely dispersed populations, creating challenges for health care." 

In conclusion, the authors write: 

A "no" vote is necessary to protect women and families throughout this country. We urge you, as Senators who have long supported the right to choose, to make your legacy the protection of these fundamental constitutional rights for generations to come. 

September 5, 2018 in Congress, Current Affairs, In the Media, Law School, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Kavanaugh comments on abortion to be parsed in confirmation hearings

ABC News (Sept. 3, 2018): Kavanaugh comments on abortion to be parsed in confirmation hearings, by Stephanie Ebbs:

Brett Kavanaugh testifies at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings Tuesday, and nothing will be parsed more closely than his first public comments on abortion.

Senate Democrats are expected to grill Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence and access to contraception.

Abortion rights groups will be listening to how Kavanaugh responds when asked if he agrees with President Trump's comments that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and what Kavanaugh meant when he described Roe as "settled law."

During his 2006 confirmation hearing for the federal bench, Kavanaugh committed to following Roe v. Wade but would not comment on his personal opinion of abortion. "The Supreme Court has held repeatedly, senator, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to give a personal view of that case," Kavanaugh told Sen. Chuck Schumer at the time.

Over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he hopes Kavanaugh is open to both sides of any case challenging Roe, including that the decision should be overturned. In an interview, Graham said he would consider Kavanaugh "disqualified" if he promised only to uphold or overturn Roe v. Wade.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, has said she won't vote for a justice  "hostile" to Roe v. Wade. But after meeting with Kavanaugh earlier this month, she said he had called Roe "settled law."

Even if Kavanaugh is not in favor of overruling Roe v. Wade, there is evidence that he would interpret the right to abortion narrowly. Last year, Kavanaugh dissented in a court decision that allowed an undocumented minor in U.S. custody to get an abortion. He argued that the government could force the minor to wait until she was transferred from a government-run immigration center to a sponsor before having the abortion. Kavanuagh argued that the delay did not constitute an "undue burden" because other laws regarding abortion can cause similar delays.

Abortion rights advocacy groups want Kavanaugh, or any other Supreme Court nominee, to affirmatively support the "personal liberty standard" and say as well that the Constitution protects an American's right to decide to use contraception, have an abortion, or marry same-sex partners.  But, Kavanaugh is unlikely to make such a statement and has publicly expressed misgivings about such liberty rights.

In his dissent to the Roe v. Wade, Justice William Rehnquist wrote that the framers of the Constitution did not intend for the 14th Amendment to overrule states' ability to write their own laws about abortion because there were state laws regulating it at the time.  In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last year Kavanaugh said that while Rehnquist couldn't convince the other justices he succeeded in "stemming the general tide of free-wheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation's history and tradition."

September 4, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Truth is Truth: U.S. Abortion Law in the Global Context

ACSblog (Aug. 27, 2018): Truth is Truth: U.S. Abortion Law in the Global Context, by Risa Kaufman & Martha Davis:

In a new ACS issue brief, Risa Kaufman and Martha Davis take on anti-abortion activists' claim that U.S. abortion laws are more permissive than in other parts of the world based on a "rudimentary global tally of national laws." The issue brief

exposes the fundamental flaws in this argument, explaining that international norms on abortion access cannot be portrayed through such nose counting. Abortion opponents’ uncritical reliance on a simplified scorecard is misleading, inaccurate, and ignores important protections for women’s health. Indeed, the abortion opponents’ simplified global tally fails to account for broad exceptions contained in many European abortion laws. And it fails to examine the broader context of access to reproductive health care, including access to contraception, maternal health care, and access to medical information.

The authors also point out that in countries like Germany that have more restrictive abortion laws, women have much wider access to health care including public funding for contraception and abortion.  And around the world the is an international trend towards expanding the grounds under which abortion is legal. 

August 28, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Moms throughout country under investigation while Utah's 'free-range parenting' law said to be first in the nation

The Washington Post (Mar.28, 2018): Utah's 'free-range parenting' law said to be first in the nation, by Meagan Flynn:

Lenore Skenazy reinvigorated debates about best parenting practices when she decided to let her 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone (with a map, MetroCard, and cash) to instill in him independence in 2008. After the court of public opinion contested whether she was a terrible or great parent, Skenazy wrote a book on her philosophies and coined the term "free-range parenting."

The idea was to let her child engage in "various activities without stifling supervision." Unforunately, many parents who subscribe consciously or not to Skenazy's "free-range" style have encountered the scary side-effects of leaving their children without supervision: interference from child services or the police

A mother in Chicago allowed her 8-year-old to walk their dog around the block. After the girl arrived safely home, the police stopped at their home upon receiving an anonymous tip about a child walking alone. The investigations that ensue in these scenarios are looking for child neglect. And even if the parents under investigation are cleared by officials (whether child services or the police), they have to endure "invasive and stressful" investigations that can not only be humiliating but are often considered a waste of time and resources. "Experts say that the problem stems from vague laws that often ensnare well-meaning parents who are trying to give their children freedom or responsibility."

A sociology professor at the Univesity of Illinois at Chicago, Barbara Risman, also notes that the expectation that mothers keep "a constant eye on their children" doesn't often extend to fathers:

This shaming mechanism underlies the cultural logic that women should spend all their time making sure their children are never alone. The opposite is true of dads. No one presumes fathers have a moral responsibility to take care of (their children). When they do, they get praise and positive reinforcement.

Child abuse and neglect laws can be vague, defining neglect, for example, as leaving a child under 14 "without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor." Those charged with investigating a report of neglect generally find it important to thoroughly explore every allegation. 

Society is pushing back, though, against what it considers unreasonable surveillance of reasonable parenting. The free-range parenting concept has now translated into law in Utah. State Senator Lincoln Fillmore (R) sponsored the measure, which exempts a range of activities children of a "sufficient age" can do without supervision from the definition of child neglect. These activities include walking, running, or biking to and from school or recreational facilities as well as playing outside or staying inside at home unattended. While the bill was in committee earlier this year, Fillmore told Fox 13:

As a society, we’ve kind of erred, as our pendulum has swung for children’s safety, a little bit too much to the side of helicopter parenting, right? We want kids to be able to learn how to navigate the world so when they’re adults they’re fully prepared to handle things on their own.

Skenazy, too, has remained involved in the conversation. Arkansas attempted to pass a similar bill last year. It failed in committee from fears of child abduction. Skenazy wrote: “Why give kids freedom — why give parents freedom — when you can take it away so easily and say you’re championing safety in the process?”

August 28, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Parenthood, Politics, Public Opinion, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Alabama Abortion Decision Raises Alarms Ahead of Kavanaugh Hearings

(Aug. 23, 2018): Alabama Abortion Decision Raises Alarms Ahead of Kavanaugh Hearings, by Andrew Beck:

Last week the Eleventh Circuit struck down an Alabama ban on dilation & evacuation (D&E) abortions, affirming a lower court decision finding the ban unconstitutional.  However, the decision underscored the current fragile state of constitutional protection for abortion.

According to Andrew Beck, the Alabama statute

made it a crime for physicians to provide D&E abortions. Had Alabama been permitted to enforce the ban, it would have prevented hundreds of women each year from being able to have an abortion, because D&E is the only outpatient procedure that is available after the earliest weeks of the second trimester. As the trial court that heard the case explained, the state could not “justify such a substantial obstacle to the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.” 

Although the Eleventh Circuit panel agreed that the law was unconstitutional, Judge Dubina wrote separately on the record to express his own personal disagreement with Roe v. Wade.  Judge Dubina noted that while he is bound to follow Supreme Court precedent as an appellate judge, if he were on the Supreme Court, he would have voted to uphold the statute and overturn Roe v. Wade.  Judge Dubina's comments underscore the threat that, following Justice Kennedy's retirement, a newly constituted Supreme Court can overrule Roe v. Wade or water down its protections. 

Beck notes that there are "dozens of reproductive rights cases working their way through the federal court system, any one of which could reach the Supreme Court."  Given that the next Supreme Court appointment will shift the balance of the Court, he emphasizes that Senators questioning Judge Kavanaugh:

must insist that he disclose not whether he acknowledges that Roe is settled law, but whether he believes that the Constitution protects the fundamental right to obtain an abortion, and how meaningful that protection is. To paraphrase Judge Dubina, Judge Kavanaugh should be asked not whether he acknowledges all of the Supreme Court’s precedents, but whether he agrees with them or not. 

August 27, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A California Abortion Pill Law Would Require Colleges To Offer Them

Bustle (Aug. 22, 2018): A California Abortion Pill Law Would Require Colleges To Offer Them, Thanks to These Activists, by Lani Seelinger:

California could require medication abortion pills to be available across all of the state's public college campuses if a bill that originated through student activism passes by the end of the month. Activists at the University of California-Berkeley were already focusing on promoting reproductive health care when they realized that expanding that care to include access to medication abortions on campus in particular would improve  many student lives. 

"Medication abortion is the process by which a woman can terminate her pregnancy by taking a series of pills within the first 10 weeks of her pregnancy." These procedures are considered very safe and efficient, and activists recognize that campus access could alleviate the logistical issues of accessing the medication. Often the stress of accessing a medication abortion can harm a student's emotional, academic, and financial well-being. Over 500 students a month on University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses seek medication abortions. 

The Women's Foundation of California--which fights for racial, economic, and gender justice--partnered with the students and alumni promoting the cause, and from there the effort spread from Berkeley throughout the state. California Senator Connie Leyva introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year. It passed. Next, the bill must pass in the Assembly before August 31 in order to land on Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

The activists spearheading the campaign for the bill (SB320) are driven by the greater mission of de-stigmatizing abortion. 

August 25, 2018 in Abortion, Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Glaring Exception in the Coming Battle Over Reproductive Rights

Aug. 8, 2018 (The New Republic): The Glaring Exception in the Coming Battle Over Reproductive Rights, by Emma Scornavacchi:

Justice Kennedy's retirement announcement earlier this summer immediately sparked discussion and concern over the fate of Roe v. Wade, abortion rights, and reproductive rights in general. Conservative and anti-abortion activists now feel that, depending on Trump's SCOTUS nominee, making abortion illegal in the United States is a real possibility. Further, "aemboldened anti-abortion campaign could lead to consequences for women’s health care and reproductive rights that range far beyond abortion restrictions. Contraceptive devices, such as IUDs or even the pill, could cease to be covered by insurance."

Notably, though, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), tends to be left out of the reproductive rights debate. 

A leader of the Pro-Life Action League cited that it can be too difficult to explain what is "objectionable" about IVF as a reason for focusing conservative efforts on abortion alone--despite the fact that the typical IVF cycle results in the disposal of many fertilized embryos. "IVF poses a puzzling challenge for conservative groups: How do organizations that liken embryos to people reckon with a technology that creates babies for families, but destroys embryos along the way?"

In the United States, the success rate for IVF in women under 35 hovers around 42%. To achieve that success, though, IVF cycles may produce anywhere from 3 - 25 embryos at a time. Many of the unused embryos remain frozen, some may be donated to research or to another family, and some may be "thawed" right away (that is, disposed of). 

Usually, anti-abortion arguments pertain to the right to life of unborn embryos, who do not get a say in the termination of life. "Unborn" embryos are being terminated by "thawing" across the country, as well, however, with no general outcry from conservative anti-abortion activists. "'There’s a disconnect between how public policy treats women who undergo IVF and women who have abortions,' says Margo Kaplan, Rutgers law professor." Kaplan herself underwent IVF, and she and her husband chose to donate their unused embryos to medical research. Such research contributes to developments in treatments and cures for diseases like Parkinson's, yet Planned Parenthood was harshly targeted for participating in embryonic research partnerships.

Women who undergo IVF and choose to donate embryos do not have to read any mandated material or sit out a waiting period, both of which are required of women in many states who choose to get an abortion. “Nobody ever questioned my ability to make my own decision. And we don’t assume that women have the same ability to do that when they have an abortion,” Kaplan says.

Anti-abortion activists are hesitant to focus on the IVF issue when they see the opportunity to at least make strides criminalizing abortion, especially in light of today's Supreme Court opening. Kaplan also posits that activists are hesitant to focus on IVF as problematic, because it's a procedure that values and supports a woman's desire to be a mother, while abortion tends to implicate women who are pregnant but do not want motherhood. 

Patriarchal values combine with the stigma around abortion to explain the dichotomy in how conservatives are choosing to respond to abortion versus IVF. Further, IVF is steeped in privilege--the costs to undergo IVF cycles can exceed $20,000 and the treatments are out of reach for many people who would otherwise avail themselves of it. As such, IVF is often enjoyed exclusively by well-educated, wealthy, and white women. If it continues to thrive--even amidst anti-abortion attacks on other forms of reproductive rights--its privilege will likely bolster its continued growth and support. 

August 22, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Assisted Reproduction, Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Fetal Rights, Politics, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)