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Showing posts from September, 2012

Virginia regulations on abortion clinics

Virginia is on its way to forcing abortion clinics to adhere to difficult-to-meet building requirements (essentially, those of hospitals). These regulations will likely put many abortion clinics in the state out of business temporarily or permanently.

These kinds of regulations are known as "TRAP" laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). The idea is to regulate abortion clinics in a way that looks innocuous but makes continued operation impossible.
What Virginia is doing with building regulations has been in vogue lately with state governments. The asserted reason for adding additional regulations on abortion providers is to ensure the highest standard of safety and care for women who are undergoing a serious medical procedure. The problem is that a) there is little to no evidence that the additional regulations are necessary and will in fact reduce incidents of complications in abortions (the vast majority of which are relatively simple and safe 5-10 minute procedu…

Canadian vs. American conservatives on abortion

Conservatives are not the same everywhere. In Canada, a Conservative Party backbencher offered a motion "to have a committee examine whether a fetus should be considered a human being before it is born, and at what point exactly that designation should be given" (Globe and Mail). He attempted to paint his motion as not about undermining or changing current abortion rights, but everyone saw through that immediately.

This is the kind of thing that American conservative legislators would propose as a matter of course-- in fact, this is a rather tame version of what pro-life legislators might do, for example offering amendments to the Constitution to give the unborn constitutional rights.

In Canada, however, the political consensus is different. The Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, came out against the motion, essentially asserting that the question of abortion rights is closed.

The motion went forward and was defeated. Opponents of the motion seemed particularly pe…

The revival of abortion services in Wichita

An abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, that has been closed since the murder of its doctor and owner in 2009 is going to reopen.

This particular clinic, Women's Health Care Services, has been controversial because it was one of the few clinics to perform late-term abortions, which are, relatively speaking, extremely rare. The doctor who ran the clinic, George Tiller, performed late-term abortions as a matter of principle (providing a service he thought necessary for some women). As a result, Dr. Tiller became a kind of highly publicized super-villain of the pro-life movement. One nickname for Dr. Tiller, repeated many times by Bill O'Reilly on his television show, was "Tiller the Baby Killer."

In part because of Dr. Tiller's clinic, Wichita became one of the epicenters of the pro-life 'rescue' and 'blockade' movements of the 1980s and 1990s. Operation Rescue's famous 1991 "Summer of Mercy" action focused on the Dr. Tiller's clin…

The 40 Days Vigil Season Begins

The pro-life organization 40 Days for Life kicked off their fall campaign this week. The group organizes prayer vigils around abortion clinics, to dissuade pregnant women from going through with abortions and to convince employees and volunteers at the clinics to change their minds and abandon their work.

They organize their vigils around 40-day blocks (hence the name). It is a smart strategy in terms of recruitment and publicity because it gives each prayer event a sense of occasion and also provides participants a definite starting and ending point-- a concrete project with a beginning and end.

Does it "work"? It depends on how one conceptualizes victory-- shutting down a clinic, convincing women to not go through with an abortion, convincing clinic workers to abandon their posts, or, in a more general and long-term way, changing the culture through a hearts/minds/spirits campaign. They will claim that they are doing good work and "winning" in some of the ways j…

Abortion allowed in Uruguay?

Uruguay may legalize abortion generally within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with a general ban thereafter with exceptions (like rape within 14 weeks, fetal deformity, or threat to the life of the pregnant woman). It also requires a five-day 'reflection' period, after an interview with a panel of three people (social worker, gynecologist, and a psychologist). The law also allows health care institutions to decline to perform abortions. The Boston Herald provides a good overview.

The reactions from pro-choice and pro-life forces in Uruguay are what one would expect, with pro-life forces concerned about giving any ground to abortion and pro-choice forces worried about the procedural barriers in the law and access issues.

I don't know much of anything about Uruguay, but I wonder about whether this will reduce the number of illegal abortions (and, by extension, unsafe abortions) taking place. This is one of the stated motivations for enacting the law. The Herald notes that…

"Pregnant at 49"

On The New York Times web site, Erin Kelly tells the story of how she considered having an abortion after becoming unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 49.

As with the Sherri Chessen/Finkbine story (see earlier post), the Kelly story presents the choice of whether to have an abortion as not reducible to the easy application of an clear-cut moral principle. In the end, Ms. Kelly miscarried, but expressed appreciation that the possibility of having an abortion was available to her if she had needed/chosen to go that route.

The Sherri Finkbine effect

Linda Greenhouse (of The New York Times) tells the story of Sherri Chessen/Finkbine, who, in 1962, wanted to have an abortion and became national news. This is one of those 'forgotten' events in the history of abortion rights in America.

The purpose of relating personal stories like this is to frame the question of abortion as one of difficult and context-specific personal choices for women and their families. Where the basic pro-life narrative focuses primarily (though not exclusively) on the moral status of the unborn, stories like this attempt to complicate things for the reader, especially because most readers can identify with the pregnant protagonist and all of the things weighing on her mind.

This was, I think, the effect of the Sherri Chessen story: It introduced, into mainstream public discussion, the idea that 'regular' and 'good' women might want an abortion for reasons that are too complicated to dismiss easily.