Friday, November 9, 2018
The Cut (Nov. 8, 2018): What the Election Results Mean for Abortion in America, by Irin Carmon:
"Tuesday’s results were messy and contradictory, just like the current reality of reproductive rights," writes Irin Carmon for The Cut.
With federal courts failing to protect abortion access, it will be up to the states to give and take away. “We made huge gains at the state level, which is going to be crucially important as we face the post-Roe reality,” says NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. Exit polls showed broad support for Roe v. Wade, but Republican voters in states like Indiana and North Dakota were motivated by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to vote Republican.
First, the bad: the Senate and the federal judiciary "are gone." Republicans took a firm majority in the Senate, which has the sole authority to select federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Should Donald Trump have the chance to make another pick for the Supreme Court justice, writes Carmon, "the impact would be catastrophic."
Plenty of damage has and still can be done by Trump-controlled federal agencies, too. Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules to limit abortion coverage on insurance plans on the exchange and to grant employers broad ability to opt out of including birth control in their plans.
But the good news is that without Republican control of the House, no major legislation restricting access to contraception or birth control — including defunding Planned Parenthood or a ban on abortion at 20 weeks — is likely to go anywhere.
At the state level, pro-choice Democrats didn’t lose a single governor’s seat and actually picked up seven seats. Former governors in some of the those states — like Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin — were zealous in limiting abortion access, making the replacements especially significant. Blue states also saw a total of 300 state legislature seats flipping Democratic, paving the way for stronger protections for abortion access.
In New York, eight state Senate seats went to Democrats, after a concerted campaign highlighted Republican opponents’ refusal to a Reproductive Health Act that would safeguard abortion liberty in New York in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Democrats now control the New York State Senate for the first time in a decade.
Some Republican supermajorities, which can override vetoes, were shrunk to simple majorities. Perhaps most promisingly, pro-choice champions won in red states, like Colin Allred in Texas. In Orange County, California, 31-year-old Katie Hill, who spoke openly about how her miscarriage at 18 had informed her support for reproductive freedom, bested the anti-abortion Steve Knight.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
FiveThirtyEight (Oct. 31, 2018): Abortion May Be Mobilizing More Democratic Voters Than Republicans Now, by Daniel Cox:
Two new surveys reveal a remarkable shift in how important the issue of abortion is to Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm election this Tuesday, November 6.
A recent PRRI survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of Democrats said abortion is a critically important issue to them personally; 40 percent of Republicans said the same. That represents a dramatic swing since 2015, when 36 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans said abortion was a critical concern. Democrats are almost twice as likely today as in 2011 to rate the issue as critical.
Meanwhile, a recent Pew poll showed that abortion is a far more central voting concern for Democrats today than it has been at any point in the last decade — 61 percent of Democratic voters said abortion is very important to their vote this year. In 2008, only 38 percent of Democratic voters said the same.
Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court appears to have elevated the perceived threat level to the right to abortion. A PRRI poll conducted during Kavanaugh's confirmation process found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believed that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Another likely reason for the rising concern among Democrats, Cox reasons, is the years-long campaign to curb abortion access at the state level.
Cox also finds that reproductive health care has taken a more central place in the Democratic agenda as women, particularly young women, have taken on more prominent roles in the party. Many Democratic women, Cox writes, see abortion access as inextricably linked to the financial security and autonomy of women.
However, polls show that when most Democrats make voting decisions, they still weigh the issue against a host of competing concerns, such as other health care issues and the environment. It is not a litmus-test issue for most Republican or Democratic voters. Only 21 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats say they would only ever support a candidate whose views on abortion align with their own, according to a PRRI poll.
Democrats are likely to continue to prioritize abortion so long as its legal status appears to be threatened and access to it is limited. This may mean that fewer Republicans campaign on their explicit opposition to abortion, at least in the short-term. Conservative Christians, who have worked for decades to overturn Roe, have been conspicuously tight-lipped about abortion in recent months, indicating that they are worried about the possible political fallout of discussing their views. The 2018 election will show if that strategy comes too late and the abortion issue has given Democratic voters another reason to head to the polls.
November 6, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, November 2, 2018
Rewire.News (Nov. 1, 2018): Abortion Is on the Ballot in These States Next Week, by Lauren Holter:
Midterm voting is already well underway throughout the country with election day officially falling on Tuesday, November 6. While the citizenry waits to see whether Republicans or Democrats will next control their state legislatures, next week's elections will also implicate specific issues in addition to deciding our leaders. Abortion rights are on the ballot in Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia.
Alabama's ballot measure proposes "personhood" rights for fetuses, which could criminalize access to certain contraceptives or in vitro fertilization. The measure, if passed, would act as a "trigger ban"and would completely outlaw abortion under the circumstances of a post-Roe world. Similar ballot measures have previously been proposed--and failed--in Colorado, Mississippi, and North Dakota. Republican legislators in Alabama want the state Constitution to explicitly elevate the rights of unborn fetuses over any right to an abortion. The Amendment does not include any exceptions to a prohibition on abortion--not even in the cases of threat to the mother's life.
In West Virginia, the No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment also aims to update their state Constitution. Lawmakers wish for the text to explicitly assert that nothing in the instrument protects the right to or funding for an abortion. The state already has a pre-Roe abortion ban that remains on the books, which would enter into force should Roe v. Wade be overturned, criminalizing abortion and punishing providers with imprisonment. The new Amendment proposal focuses on eliminating Medicaid funding for abortions. Medicaid currently covers "medically-necessary" abortions in West Virginia. While the Amendment does include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or threats to life, opponents are particularly concerned that the new restriction would disproportionately harm low-income patients who do not qualify for exemptions.
Finally, the proposal in Oregon, called Measure 106, "would prohibit public funds from paying for abortions in Oregon except in cases of rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, or a threat to the pregnant person’s health." Public employees and people on Medicaid would lose access to abortion as well. This measure would specifically override the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which Oregon passed last year to guarantee cost-free access to abortion and reproductive health services.
In the era of a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, advocates are particularly zealous about preemptively protecting abortion access on the state level, and those involved in these three states' campaigns are no exception.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
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.
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)
Friday, September 28, 2018
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."
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
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.
Monday, September 24, 2018
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.
Saturday, August 25, 2018
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)
Friday, August 3, 2018
With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Maryland House speaker aims to strengthen state protections
Aug. 2, 2018 (Washington Post): With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Md. House speaker aims to strengthen state protections, by Erin Cox:
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead a statewide effort to enshrine a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care in the Maryland constitution, joining other states in attempting to preempt any move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections.
The Speaker said he will personally introduce and earn support for legislation asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment, likely in the 2020 presidential election. An amendment would ensure that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, no legislation outlawing abortion could be passed in Maryland.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who is anti-abortion, said that that letting voters decide on the issue “sounds like a great idea.” Ben Jealous, his Democratic opponent running to replace Hogan this November, vowed to campaign in support of the amendment.
Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates believe a strongly worded dissent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh issued last fall, in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, indicates he would favor more abortion restrictions and might support overturning the federal protections that began with Roe.
Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill repealing century-old laws that criminalized abortion care. West Virginia and Alabama have initiatives on the ballot this year to clarify that their state constitutions do not protect the right to an abortion.
If Busch succeeds in persuading three-fifths of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to approve the constitutional amendment next year, Maryland voters would see it on the 2020 ballot.
Nine states currently have abortion protections in their state constitutions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Busch said the amendment would insert Maryland’s existing abortion statute into the state constitution. That law was approved by the General Assembly in 1991. After antiabortion groups petitioned it to a referendum, it passed with 61.7 percent of the vote.
The law allows individuals to seek abortion care without interference from the state if the fetus is not viable outside the womb. An individual may also terminate a pregnancy at any point if the fetus has a “genetic defect or serious anomaly” or if an abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant person.
Busch said he will introduce the amendment proposal when the legislature convenes in January and is confident he can find the votes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Monday, July 30, 2018
July 26, 2018 (Indianapolis Star): Court says women have 'ability to reason' in upholding block on abortion waiting period, by Vic Ryckaert:
A three-member panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld an injunction blocking an Indiana law that requires women to undergo an ultrasound and wait 18 hours before seeking abortion care.
The panel found that the 18-hour waiting period imposes an "undue burden" on women seeking abortion care.
"Women, like all humans, are intellectual creatures with the ability to reason, consider, ponder and challenge their own ideas and those of others," Judge Ilana Rovner wrote in the 51-page ruling. "The usual manner in which we seek to persuade is by rhetoric, not barriers."
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said he is reviewing the decision.
Opponents of access to safe and legal abortion blamed a rise in Indiana abortions last year, the first since 2009, on U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's 2017 ruling that blocked the ultrasound requirement. The restriction was included in a state law passed in 2016 and signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence.
The ACLU filed the case on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, arguing that an 18-hour wait would force those seeking abortion care to take two days off work and pay for additional travel or overnight lodging expenses.
“The ruling affirms that deeply personal decisions about abortion should be made by women in consultation with their doctors, not politicians pursuing an extreme ideological agenda,” Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement.
ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk described the ruling as "a victory for women and another repudiation of the unnecessary and unconstitutional attempts by Indiana politicians to interfere with women’s reproductive rights.”
Saturday, July 28, 2018
July 23, 2018 (TIME): Massachusetts Passes Repeal of 173-Year-Old Abortion Ban Amid Fears for Future of Roe v. Wade, by Samantha Cooney:
Earlier this month, Massachusetts became the first state to formally respond to the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the world of a two-Trump-nominee Supreme Court. Although abortion is already legal in the state, Massachusetts still has a 173-year-old law on the books banning the procurement of a miscarriage.
The bill is called the NASTY Women Act (Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women) and passed in a landslide. While abortion has technically been legal in the state since 1981, state legislators were driven to quick action to further protect these rights after Justice Kennedy announced his retirement.
A Masschusetts State Democrat said:
I think people are beginning to realize these are strange times we live in. Nothing is impossible, and we’ve got to have a ‘plan B.’ If these laws are enforced, what do we do? We’re not willing to sit back and say, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen here.’ The word for that is denial.
New Mexico and New York each have efforts underway to protect abortion rights as well.
While some critics accuse the NASTY Women Act and other similar bills of unnecessary political posturing, supporters cite that the rights we may take for granted are not always guaranteed. Rebecca Hart Holder, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, says "the reality is any state can have a threat to abortion care.”
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
The New York Times (Jul. 10, 2018): As Cuomo Rallies for Abortion Rights, Nixon Questions His Bona Fides, by Jesse McKinley:
The New York primary season is heating up as incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon are both advocating, among other things, for hard line policies to protect the right to abortion and women's health services in New York State.
Governor Cuomo told voters that New York needs to codify the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade on the state level and called on the State Legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act to do so. He's previously put forth similar legislation, none of which made it through the State Senate's Republicans and "rogue," anti-abortion Democrats. Cuomo is also advocating for the decriminalizing of abortion--moving laws and regulations pertaining to the procedure over to the public health code instead.
Nixon, in her primary campaign, has highlighted previous, unflattering statements by Cuomo about feminism and women as well as his failure to execute a comprehensive shift in New York reproductive policies in order to distinguish her own platform, which lies somewhat farther to the left and is endorsed by the New York Working Families Party.
The stakes are clearly raised in in this year's Gubernatorial race in light of Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court and growing concerns that the fundamental rights to abortion and reproductive health will be formidably challenged under a much more conservative court.
The Washington Post (Jul. 17, 2018): Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says, by Ariana Eunjung Cha:
New court cases cases are grappling with the decision of what to do with frozen embryos created during a marriage that later dissolves. In many cases that Cha reports on, the couples chose to create and freeze several embryos in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and treatment schedule that threatened later fertility.
When these same couples faced divorce, there were bitter divides over what should be done with the embryos: one party wanted to maintain "ownership" of the embryos for a future chance at children while the other wanted the embryos destroyed, fearing unwanted future financial or relationship obligations.
With the number of frozen embryos in the United States soaring into the millions, disputes over who owns them are also on the rise. Judges have often — but not always — ruled in favor of the person who does not want the embryos used, sometimes ordering them destroyed, following the theory that no one should be forced to become a parent.
In Arizona, though, a "first-in-the-nation law" went into effect on July 1 that states "custody of disputed embryos must be given to the party who intends to help them 'develop to birth.'"
The legislation represents for some lawmakers the idea that frozen embryos have their own right to life, and many imagine that the implications could eventually include a delineation of when life begins and a claim to a separate set of embryonic rights of their own as human beings (rather than the discussion being centered on who "owns" the embryos).
Some groups, like the anti-abortion Thomas More Society, advocate for that embryos to be considered "children" in the legal sense, asking judges to make decisions on disputes based on the best interest of the "child."
Debates to extend personhood to unborn embryos and fetuses abound in anti-abortion work. Abortion rights advocates are concerned that these discussions could further disintegrate the right to abortion in the United States. "If a days-old embryo in a freezer has a right to life, why not a days-old embryo in utero?"
While judges have historically ordered disputed embryos destroyed based on the wishes of the party who does not want a child, an Arizona judge chose to balance one party's "probable inability to have a child without the embryos" against the other party's "desire to not be a father" a different way.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronee Korbin Steiner held that Ruby Torres, who wanted the embryos in order to have biological children one day, had no right to them. The judge did not order them destroyed, though, and instead ordered that they go up for donation.
Torres appealed the decision and expects a new ruling any day.
The new Arizona law that states embryos shall be given to the party who intends to develop them to birth was written in response to this case to "help" people in Torres' situation. It also attempts to recognize the rights of those who do not want the embryos used by providing that those parties would not be liable for child support in the future.
Both the judicial decisions and the legislation continue to prove extremely controversial:
The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group that has successfully pushed antiabortion legislation in the state, supported the measure, saying the bill would “lead to more consistent rulings.”
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which represents doctors, nurses and other professionals who work on fertility issues, opposed the measure, arguing that it would have a profound impact on reproductive medicine.
Medical professionals foresee profound complications to stem-cell research in particular, which relies on embryos donated to science. Such research is believed essential in developing treatments for many diseases and conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The treatment and storage of embryos as a result of the new legislation will likely make embryonic stem cells much more scarce.
In a friend-of-the-court brief in Torres' pending appellate case, the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys urged judges in the Arizona Court of Appeals to balance the interest of each former spouse. They argue that the parties claims are not equal and that "the constitutional protection against compulsory parenthood is [generally] greater than any procreative interest in pre-embryos."
Time will tell both if the appellate judges affirm Judge Steiner's controversial ruling (likely leading to further appeals) while we also wait for the inevitable challenges to Arizona's new embryo law.
July 18, 2018 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Medical News, Parenthood, Politics, Public Opinion, Scholarship and Research, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
New York Times (Jun. 26, 2018): Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case, by Adam Liptak:
Justice Thomas wrote for the five-justice, conservative majority who decided Tuesday that California's "crisis pregnancy centers" cannot be forced to provide information on abortion services in the state.
The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, No. 16-1140, centered on a California law that requires pregnancy centers whose aim is to dissuade pregnant people from abortions to provide information on the availability of abortions in California.
The state requires the centers to post notices that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number for more information.
The centers argued that the law violated their right to free speech by forcing them to convey messages at odds with their beliefs. The law’s defenders said the notices combat incomplete or misleading information provided by the clinics.
The state legislature enacted the law after finding that hundreds of the pregnancy centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling" to confuse or intimidate women from making informed decisions about their health care. The law also required that unlicensed clinics disclose that they are unlicensed.
Justice Thomas wrote that the requirements for the notices regarding abortion availability were too burdensome and infringed on the clinics' rights under the First Amendment. The ruling reverses a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had upheld the law.
Justice Breyer penned a dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, citing the contradiction between the majority's decision here and a Court decision in 1992 that upheld a Pennsylvania law that required abortion-performing doctors to inform their patients about other options, like adoption.
June 27, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Rewire.News (Jun. 8, 2018): New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now, by Auditi Guha:
The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), or S 2796, was drafted four years ago and recently passed by the Democratic-majority New York Assembly. The RHA is intended to rectify some of the shortcomings of local abortion law. The bill "repeals criminal abortion statutes, permits abortion after 24 weeks when the pregnant person’s health is at risk or when the fetus is not viable, and expands current law so that nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants can provide abortion services."
The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S 3668), also passed by the Assembly, "would expand contraceptive coverage to include all forms of FDA-approved contraception (including vasectomies), authorize pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, and add coverage for contraceptive education and counseling."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) supported incorporating the RHA’s changes into state law in his budget proposal this year, but it’s been a hard push in a state where Republicans decide what bills get to be voted on. Procedural glitches made the fight tougher this week for both the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act as the senate ground to a halt, the New York Daily News reported.
Senate Democrats last week again tried to bring both the RHA and the CCCA to the floor for a vote, but Republican leadership ended the session without action.
“Both these bills are supported by the governor and have passed the Assembly," Sen. Krueger said in a statement. "The Senate Republicans should stop using procedural maneuvers to block these bills which would ensure that individuals would have control of their own reproductive health decisions.”
The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Robin Chappelle Golston, told Rewire.News: “Obviously legislation as simple as making access to contraception widely available was too much for the majority of the Senate...And I think the best answer for that is that people need to go out and vote this fall.”
Monday, June 4, 2018
The Advocate (June 3, 2018): Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator, by Tyler Bridges:
During the past three legislative sessions in the Louisiana legislature, seven Democrats missed more than half of the votes on abortion, an issue fraught with political peril for some Democrats in this state.
Two Democrats from New Orleans — state Rep. Neil Abramson and state Rep. Gary Carter Jr. — missed 15 of the 17 votes taken during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Both men said that other legislative business caused them to miss the votes. The other five who have missed at least half of the votes are state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace.
No Republicans missed more than half of the 17 votes, according to the group’s score card.
Five of the seven Democrats did not vote on the most controversial abortion bill during the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill 181, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks. That bill passed the House 81-9 with 14 abstentions and the Senate 24-1 with 14 abstentions. Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the 15-week bill into law, but it will take effect only if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law under legal challenge by abortion rights groups that label it as "cruel" and "unconstitutional." Both measures would impose the strictest bans in the country.
Louisiana Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, hold anti-abortion views that put them at odds with the Democratic Party nationally and the party’s recent presidential candidates.
Some Democrats, however, don’t want to anger Democrats who support abortion rights, a key constituency, or conservative voters who do not support abortion, whose support may be necessary in some elections, said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster and political consultant. Pinsonat said he is not surprised that the legislators who have missed the abortion votes are Democrats.
Voting anti-choice is especially important for Republican candidates, Pinsonat said, noting that 18 to 22 percent of the electorate consists of single-issue, anti-abortion voters.
In a 2016 interview, Rep. Abramson declined to state his views on abortion. “That’s a broad question,” he said when asked whether he supported women having the right to an abortion. “I’m not going to get into the details of all of this,” he said when asked whether he opposed abortion except in the cases of limited exceptions, a common Republican position.
Rep. Carter said he has not intentionally missed abortion votes and said his position on the issue is clear: “I support women having the right to choose as well as to be able to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” he said. Had he been present for the vote, Carter said he would have voted against the 15-week abortion ban.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
The Hill (May 2, 2018): Iowa lawmakers pass strictest abortion law in the US, by Julia Manchester:
On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Iowa legislators passed "the heartbeat bill." The legislation bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Essentially, the heartbeat distinction would ban abortions by the sixth week of pregnancy.
Opposition to the bill claims that it would ban abortions before some women even know they're pregnant.
The passage of the bill comes as the Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance on abortion, spurring a slew of abortion laws across the nation.
Nineteen states adopted a total of 63 restrictions to the procedure in 2017, which is the highest number of state laws on the issue since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds's (R) desk, but, if signed, is expected to be challenged as a violation of Supreme Court precedent including Roe v. Wade.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
The Hill (Mar. 20, 2018): Judge blocks Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, by Rebecca Savransky:
The Gestational Age Act, signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on March 19, has already been judicially blocked.
The law bans abortions after 15 weeks and is the toughest restriction on abortion in the nation.
In response to the legislation, Mississippi's only abortion clinic sued, and U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, March 20.
Mississippi was already one of the toughest states in which to receive an abortion before the new law was signed. The state requires people seeking abortions to receive counseling and to wait 24 hours before receiving the procedure.
NPR (Mar. 19, 2018): Mississippi Governor Signs Nation's Toughest Abortion Ban Into Law, by Jenny Gathright:
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law the Gestational Age Act on Monday, March 19, officially banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The legislature had initially passed the bill on March 8, 2018.
There is only one clinic in Mississippi that performs abortions; they have already sued the state in response to the legislation.
After signing the bill, the Governor said: "We are saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do...We'll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that'll be fine with me. It is worth fighting over."
Thursday, March 8, 2018
ThinkProgress (Feb. 28, 2018): Mississippi is perilously close to passing a big crackdown on reproductive rights, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:
A committee of lawmakers in the Mississippi Senate passed House Bill 1510, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. While the bill provides exceptions for medical emergencies or certain cases of fetal abnormalities, it does not except rape or incest. The House originally proposed and passed the bill earlier in February of this year.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) has previously stated his goal is to completely end abortions in Mississippi, and has affirmed he would sign the bill if it lands on his desk.
Mississippi already proscribes abortions after 20 weeks, a law that was originally defended on the basis of preventing fetal pain, despite research that shows a fetus may not feel pain until 27 weeks.
As many people do not find out they are pregnant for several weeks, or even months, pro-choice advocates are concerned about the difficulty a 15-week ban imposes on persons who would seek an abortion but do not discover their pregnancy in time.
20-week bans have been proposed and judicially struck down in Arizona and Idaho, however there has been no challenge yet to Mississippi's current 20-week ban. It's likely the new bill, if made law, would be challenged in court.