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Showing posts from January, 2013

Change to Ireland's abortion law

The Irish government is finally set to act. The New York Timesand many other media outlets report that  Irish government officials are proposing to move from a total ban on abortion to one in which women can have an abortion "in cases where there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life-- as distinct from her health" (New York Times).

I have written several times about what's going on in Ireland; to read, click on one or more of the 'labels' at the bottom of this post.

Ireland's debate over abortion demonstrates three things:

First, it demonstrates the power of the individual story to affect opinion and spur action. The move to (slightly) liberalize Ireland's total ban on abortion has been mandated since 1992 by the Irish Supreme Court and since 2010 by the European Court of Human Rights. The Irish government only got moving, however, after the tragic 2012 death of Dr. Savita Halappanaver, who died after suffering a miscarriage. Doctors in an…

Three observations about the contraceptive mandate

The New York Times published  a good article  a few days ago that provides an overview of the storm of lawsuits over the contraceptive mandate.

When I read and think about this issue, I keep coming back to three things that seem to me quite salient but do not get as much play as I'd like:

First, before the ACA's contraceptive mandate, almost 30 states had similar mandates under state law. The Catholic Church and other organizations have already been living with this. Several Catholic  colleges and universities have supplied-- and supply-- coverage for birth control.  This idea that religious organizations and their followers can't live lives of religious freedom under a contraceptive mandate is clearly false! I don't understand why this fact does not get more attention-- and is not advertised more by the Obama Administration.

Second, the Catholic Church is fine with government involvement in religion when it swings their way. Did you know that in Germany, to take one e…

New news link on contraception and insurance coverage

If you look under our "News and opinion" links, to the right, you'll now see one labeled "NYT contraception and insurance coverage."

That is a link to a "Times Topic" page at The New York Times that is focused on the Affordable Care Act and the 'contraceptive mandate' and all of the controversy that goes along with it. It will be updated regularly.

Another nice thing about the NYT page is that it provides an excellent summary of the contours of the debate over the contraceptive mandate, assertions of religious liberty, and the resulting lawsuits. If you want to get caught up on what the fuss is all about, this is a great place to start.



New York Times Times Topic: Contraception and Insurance Coverage (Religious Exemption Debate)

Pregnant with an IUD

The pro-choice and pro-life movements love a good story. Like all political stories, narratives about pregnancy and abortion decisions are used to humanize abstract arguments, putting the reader in the shoes of someone with whom they can empathize.

I am coming to this story a little late-- it was published on December 3rd-- but it is worth a read.

Titled "Pregnant with an IUD: The Story of My Abortion," it is written by a woman who became pregnant despite having an IUD-- which is normally highly effective in preventing pregnancy. She writes a) about the shock of being pregnant unexpectedly and b) scheduling and obtaining an abortion.

The author portrays comfort at having an abortion and relief that a safe abortion option was available. The essay was published by RH Reality Check, which is a pro-choice media outlet, so the clear expectation of author and publisher was to make a pro-choice point.

One of the interesting, and perhaps rare, things about this essay, from my persp…

What are women willing to do to have an abortion?

Almost anything. Kate Manning reminds us of this in an op-ed in The New York Times, where she discusses some of the horrifying ways women have attempted to perform self-abortions.

If you've read even a little of the literature on the history of abortion, one knows a) that women have been attempting to control the number and spacing of their children for as long as women have gotten pregnant, b) before the contemporary era, abortion, in particular self-abortion, has been a dangerous and horrifying experience, and c) despite that, women have gone through hell to end pregnancies, often with tragedy as the result.

A cornerstone of the current American pro-life narrative is that women largely do not determine for themselves that they should have an abortion. Instead, pregnant women who have abortions are not murderers but are, like their 'unborn children,' victims to greedy 'abortion mills' and insensitive men-- husbands, boyfriends, etc.

So, for example, pro-lifers ar…

Insight on the 40 Days for Life campaign

There are many wings of the pro-life movement, each with its own set of tactics regarding the best way to fight abortion in America. (The various wings or 'streams' of the contemporary pro-life movement are described in Ziad Munson's excellent book, The Making of Pro-Life Activists.)

One wing focuses on conducting activities around existing abortion clinics, to persuade pregnant women to not go through with intended abortions, and to change the hearts and minds of clinic workers. The best current example of the clinic-based pro-life movement is 40 Days for Life, whose signature event is to hold annual, coordinated 40-day prayer vigils outside of abortion clinics across the country.  When not holding their vigils, they organize supporters to have a regular presence around clinics, where they pray and attempt to engage clinic patients and employees.

The kind of activities conducted by 40 Days for Life are a much gentler version of the confrontational tactics used by Operati…

North Dakota State University, Planned Parenthood, and academic freedom

Apparently, having Planned Parenthood linked to your university research is not a good idea.

An article in indicates that North Dakota State University bowed to political pressure in killing a $1.2 million federal grant to scientifically study comprehensive sex education programs-- in other words, sex education programs that would include information about contraception. Two NDSU professors won the grant after state government officials declined to apply for it:
The professors, Brandy Randall and Molly Secor-Turner,planned to use the three-year grant for a sexual education program for at-risk teens in the Fargo area, programming developed in partnership with the region’s Planned Parenthood office.
North Dakota State's president froze the grant for legal review-- but telegraphed the eventual outcome, which would be to kill the grant-- after conservatives got wind of it and started complaining, arguing that it violated state law:
The state’s code forbids federal fu…

Movies and documentaries about abortion

I don't suppose that watching a movie or documentary about abortion is anyone's idea of lighthearted fun, but if you are interested in the topic and want to see something that will enlighten or challenge you (or perhaps both), I recommend the following five films, all available through Netflix:

Lake of Fire (2006). In my opinion, this is the single best documentary about abortion in America, providing an unvarnished, emotionally complicated, and balanced view of personal and political decision-making about abortion. Unborn in the USA (2007). Available for streaming. This documentary examines the pro-life movement in America. I would say that the filmmakers have a pro-choice perspective, but it does not affect the quality of the film one way or the other. I found its coverage of efforts to train a new generation of college-age pro-life activists particularly interesting. Movies:
Citizen Ruth (1996). Available for streaming. This is a dark satire about the battle o…

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

I'm glad to be back from my long winter break. I hope you have enjoyed the holiday season and are ready to start discussing reproductive politics again.

I don't know if you came across this article in The New York Timeson pregnancy centers (sometimes called "crisis pregnancy centers" or CPCs). It does a nice (and fairly sympathetic) job of describing the work of CPCs, which exist primarily to dissuade women from having abortions.

CPCs are run by pro-life activists. They advertise in billboards, in phone books, and on the Internet in a way that tries to reach women before they would contact or go to an abortion clinic (or an organization that offers abortion as one option or service of many, like Planned Parenthood). Just as an experiment, imagine you are a pregnant women thinking about having an abortion or considering other options (like adoption) and looking for information. Do a pretend search on the Internet. There is a very good chance that among the many resul…