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Showing posts from November, 2012

Mississippi's only abortion clinic is TRAPed

The state of Mississippi has enacted a classic "TRAP" law and it might shut down the state's only abortion clinic.

A TRAP law is a targeted regulation of an abortion provider-- essentially, imposing regulatory requirements on an abortion clinic that the clinic cannot meet. Instead of directly outlawing abortion, one regulates abortion providers out of existence. The regulations are framed as common sense medical protections for the women that would receive abortions. This is a popular conceit and a favorite of pro-life activists, who charge that the uncaring abortion industry injures many women through shoddy medical practices.
Mississippi's version would achieve its intended effect by requiring all abortion doctors operating in the state to have hospital privileges, on the premise that this would be useful in case a problem occurred during the abortion procedure that would require a women to receive emergency or follow-up treatment at a hospital. 
The problem is th…

How exceptions to abortion bans work in practice

The much awaited report of the Irish government "Expert Group"recommending how to implement exceptions to Ireland's abortion ban was issued this week. I have yet to read it, but when I do, I'll provide an analysis.

In the meantime, one of the attorneys who participated in the famous "A, B and C" case has written an interesting essay about legal exceptions to abortion bans. In A, B and C v. Ireland (2010) the European Court of Human Rights, consistent with the Supreme Court of Ireland, demanded that Ireland adopt at least a life-saving exception to its total legal ban on abortion-- which the Irish government has not done.

In the wake of the death of Dr. Savita Halappanaver and resulting public pressure, the Irish government has finally produced a set of recommended legal and medical guidelines for doctors for implementing a "life" exception.

The attorney and author of the Slate article, Julie F. Kay, expresses skepticism that a narrow life excepti…

The Ohio heartbeat bill is dead

The proposed Ohio law that would have banned abortions of any fetus that had a heartbeat-- in other words, after about six weeks of gestation-- has been set aside by the Ohio legislature.

That is the right move. The law had no chance of being upheld as constitutional. From the time of the Roe era, pro-life groups have been trying to use scientific evidence of the humanity of the unborn to restrict abortion, and it has largely been a failure, in particular when used to justify near-total bans on abortion. As I discussed in my own dissertation, the 'humanity' of the unborn is one consideration but not the primary or major consideration regarding abortion rights or restrictions. To point that out drives pro-life activists crazy and sounds terribly unfeeling toward the unborn. Still, that is the way the law has been structured and interpreted, and the many consequences (intended and unintended) that would result from changing the paradigm have kept judges cautious.

The 'scien…

Is overpopulation a myth?

It is, according to the Population Research Institute (PRI), a pro-life organization "which works to end coercive population control, and fight the myth of overpopulation which fuels it." The current president of PRI is Steven W. Mosher, a well-known pro-life activist who cut his teeth exposing and protesting the problems of China's one-child policy, in particular forced abortion.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, the idea that there is no population problem is one of the pro-life 'narratives' that crops up all over the place. Here is the first of six videos in a PRI-produced series (for the complete series, visit the video series home page):

So let's look at the major assertions:
The population scare prompted the creation of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).Those who support population control are the "haves" trying to wipe out the undesirable "have nots."The world population will peak in a 30 years or so and then start to decline. All o…

A Catholic EU health commissioner

The European Union Parliament approved a controversial choice for their top health official:
The European Parliament backed a devout Catholic as EU health commissioner on Wednesday, brushing off critics who fear the Maltese politician could row back on EU policies on stem cell research, abortion and gay rights.

Greens, Liberals and Socialists in the European Parliament had said they would vote against Tonio Borg, a former foreign and justice minister in Malta, saying his beliefs could influence EU policy.

As commissioner, Borg's remit would include access to healthcare and contraception and the control of sexually transmitted diseases.

Borg, who was in Malta on the day of the vote according to an EU Commission official, told EU lawmakers before the vote that his personal views would no…

The irony of the inquiry into Dr. Halappanavar's death

The Associated Press (via The Washington Post) reports that the composition of the panel that is investigating Dr. Savita Halappanavar's death in Ireland has changed:
Prime Minister Enda Kenny told lawmakers he hoped the move — barely 24 hours after Ireland unveiled the seven-member panel — would allow the woman’s widower to support the probe into why Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist, died Oct. 28 while hospitalized in Galway.Kenny’s U-turn came hours after her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, said he would refuse to talk to the investigators and would not consent to their viewing his wife’s medical records because three of the Galway hospital’s senior doctors had been appointed as investigators.Kenny said that the three doctors would be replaced by other officials “who have no connection at all with University Hospital Galway. In that sense the investigation will be completely and utterly independent.” This makes sense. Why conduct an inquiry at all if it can be ac…

Declining abortions in the United States

Reporters, analysts, and advocates are all discussing newly released abortion data from the Centers for Decease Control and Prevention (CDC):
After years of holding steady, new Center for Disease Control data shows that the United States abortion rate has fallen to an all-time low. It dropped 5 percent between 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which data is available, the largest decline in the past decade. (Source:The Washington Post)  So, why did abortions go down so much between 2008 and 2009? Analysts and pundits have offered the following explanations:

Better contraception = fewer abortions. More women are using more effective methods of contraception. As a result, fewer pregnancies that do occur are unwanted, and therefore fewer pregnancies are terminated. A recent, much-discussed study indicated that, when women have greater access to more effective contraception-- when it was provided for free-- pregnancy and abortion rates went down.

From the CBS News report:
Some cite a…

A Thanksgiving break

I will be away from the computer over the Thanksgiving holiday, so please use the links on the right side of the page to get news and analysis on reprodutive politics for the next few days.

I will be back on Saturday, November 23 with new posts on the contraceptive mandate (some new court decisios have come in) and part two of my analysis of the changing model of abortion care in the United States.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

More arguments over denying Dr. Halappanavar an abortion in Ireland

The death of Dr. Savita Halappanavar in an Irish hospital is provoking a great deal of analysis and argument.

The editor in chief of RH Reality Check, Jodi Jacobson, wrote two insightful articles. Among her observations:
The unwillingness of Irish politicians to create clear legal guidelines for abortion in life-threatening situations is unacceptable. In Dr. Halappanavar's case, however, the primary problem was that she was a patient in a Catholic hospital. Given the clear medical needs of Dr. Halappanavar, Catholic doctrine, and not Irish law, was the primary culprit in causing Dr. Halappanavar's death.This is not an isolated case: In other countries with restrictive abortion laws (and cultures), women have died as a result of being denied an abortion. Could this happen in the United States? One would think, "no," given our relatively open laws and high public support for life-saving abortion care. But consider Jacobson's suggestion: This might have been less a …

The UN's new "State of World Population" report

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently released its 2012 "State of World Population" report. Consistent with decades of evidence, it reaffirms and emphasizes that family planning-- the ability of a family to control the number and timing of the children it has-- is fundamental to the economic vitality, development, and stability of a society.

Narrowly conceived, "family planning" is control over pregnancy-- i.e., access to and use of effective contraceptives. As the report notes, however, family planning is only one of a "broad range of services [that] must be provided to ensure sexual and reproductive health":

primary care as well as antenatal care, safe delivery and post-natal care;prevention and appropriate treatment of infertility;management of the consequences of unsafe abortion;treatment of reproductive tract infections;prevention, care and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS;information, education and counseling o…

The exception of Scott DesJarlais

The news about Republican House member Scott DesJarlais just gets worse and worse. As it turns out, not only did he cheat on his wife with a patient and pressured his pregnant patient-girlfriend to have an abortion, he cheated on his wife six times, with patients and co-workers, prescribed drugs to one of his patient girlfriends, and successfully advocated for his own wife to have an abortion.

For a 'family values' and 'pro-life' conservative, that is quite a record.

The great irony in all this, of course, is that Representative DesJarlais was reelected, despite all of the things he's done, while Republican Senate and House candidates (Akin, Mourdock, Walsh, and Koster) lost their races not for what they did but what they said (inflammatory, insensitive, and just plain factually incorrect things about abortion and/or rape).

In this election season, words spoke louder than actions.

Is there anything to be learned from the utter hypocrisy of Representative DesJarlai…

A medically necessary abortion denied in Ireland

Limited access to abortion in Ireland is causing further scandal.

An Indian woman who lived in Ireland, Dr. Savita Halappanavar, died because doctors delayed addressing complications from her miscarriage at 17 weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Halappanavar was in the process of miscarrying. The process of miscarriage introduces the danger of serious infection, with the risk increasing over time. The indicated treatment, then, is to hasten the end of the pregnancy-- i.e., perform an abortion. Dr. Halappanavar's doctors did not, and she died of septicemia.

The first thought that came to mind after reading about this tragedy was that Dr. Halappanavar's sad and avoidable death is direct evidence against the assertion that an abortion is never "medically necessary" to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Given that the Dr. Halappanavar's unborn child, at 17 weeks, was pre-viable and 100% certain to die-- she was, after all, in the process of miscarrying-- why wouldn't docto…

Update on forced abortion case in Nevada

In Nevada, a county judge was fighting with the parents of a mentally-impaired adult woman over whether she should abort her pregnancy. I wrote an earlier post summarizing the case and the issues involved. 

The Associated Press now reports:
     A Washoe County district judge has decided against forcing a mentally impaired Nevada woman to have an abortion after all the parties involved reached a tentative agreement to help her through her high-risk pregnancy.      The 32-year-old woman's legal guardian told KRNV-TV on Wednesday that Judge Egan Walker had agreed that the woman wants to carry the pregnancy to term and that the evidence doesn't show it's medically necessary to abort the baby.      After taking the abortion option off the table, Walker said he plans to hold additional medical evidentiary hearings in the weeks ahead to determine the safest way to proceed. It is hard to know what motivated the judge to rule this way, precisely. One thing I think is clear is that t…

Changing the model of abortion access in the United States: Part I

This post is the first of a two-part discussion on how abortion services are provided in the United States and how that model might be improved.

The right of abortion in the United States is a 'negative' right: A government's power to prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion is limited. Put another way, the right of abortion in the United States is a right of government non-interference.

It is not, however, a right to abortion: Governments are not required to help women obtain abortions, only stay out of the way. It falls on individual women, civic groups, and the market to determine how easy or difficult it is for women in practice to access abortion services.

Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, pro-choice activists, journalists, and scholars have noted that abortion access has been spotty, in particular for poor women and women who live in rural areas. A long-standing topic of discussion in the pro-choice community is how to improve access.

In recent years one much-discussed …

Pro-life narratives

After reading American pro-life books, articles, blogs, and news sites for a while, one starts to notice recurring narratives: assertions, stories, themes, and ideas that are worked into whatever is being discussed. Taken as a whole, these narratives draw a picture of the world view of pro-life activist.

I started working on a list, and I thought I'd share it with you. Items are in no particular order. Take a look and let me know what you think. 
Pro-life narratives: Abortion causes breast cancer. This is an example of how abortion does not empower women, but harms them. Many women who have had an abortion deeply regret it. Women are fooled into thinking that an abortion is what 'they' want, when in fact they will come to realize that they have been exploited. There has been an increase in the abortion rate since, say, the 1950s, and that is due to the 'sexual revolution,' including the invention of birth control pills and the promotion of a culture of sexual permi…

Contraception and sex education in the Philippines

Legal change on contraception and sex education may be arriving in the Philippines, which has a birthrate almost double that of the United States:
After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. If it passes in the House, which returned to session on Monday, the bill will also need to be approved by the Senate. (Source: The New York Times) The reasons for teaching women and men the basics of human reproduction and making contraception free and available are hard to dispute. First, women should have more control over the timing and spacing of pregnancies as a matter of personal autonomy and dignity. Second, a basic tenet of international development is that poor countries do better economically and developmentally when birthrates go down. Lower birth…

Will the outcome of the 2012 election change much in reproductive politics?

I would say the answer is "no."

Most of the people I know who are interested in politics are still digesting and analyzing the 2012 election cycle, which, to many people's surprise (and, for some, despair), went Democratic/liberal on several fronts: President, Senate, state races, state initiatives on same-sex marriage and marijuana, and taxation in California. All of the Republican candidates who made controversial statements about abortion (Akin, Mourdock, Walsh, and Koster) lost their races. And so on.

Especially in the amplification chamber of the contemporary 24/7 media, it is normal to over-read election results. In this case, while I do think the election is a wake-up call to the Republican party-- or should be a wake-up call-- there is nothing that occurred in this election cycle that cannot be fixed-- fixed, that is, if the Republican party and conservatives don't under-read the election results.

Looking at reproductive politics specifically, people who are…