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Showing posts from July, 2013

Legislative activity on abortion in 2013

Does it seem like every day you are hearing or reading about one state or another attempting to pass some sort of legislative restriction on abortion? That's because it is true. The last four years or so have seen a dramatic increase in the number of legislative attempts to do the following:

Attack the framework of Roe and Casey directly; North Dakota falls into this category, for example.Chip away at the Roe/Casey jurisprudentialframework, with fetal pain legislation, bans on abortions after 20 weeks, and so on. This kind of legislation does not directly defy the Supreme Court's major abortion decisions-- although they are inconsistent with them-- but attempt to encourage judges to subtly rework the Roe/Casey doctrine. This is what pro-life activists successfully achieved with the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Carhart.Enact regulations that, on the surface, look like they are consistent with Roe/Casey but make it harder …

Misreading pro-life legislator Brian Nieves

In the last few election cycles, pro-life Republican lawmakers and candidates have regularly fed the public diet for controversy, with statements about abortion and rape, medically necessary abortions, and related topics.

There is no need, therefore, to gin up an outrageous statement where it does not exist.

The blog Little Green Footballs (LGF), along with The Raw Story and The Huffington Post,reports that a Missouri state senator, Brian Nieves, got into an argument over Facebook with a priest whom he thought was a reporter. Mr. Nieves has a history of mixing it up with constituents and critics and using rather tactless language and imagery when lashing out at those who criticize him.

In the ensuing exchange, according to LGF, The Huffington Post, and The Raw Story, Senator Nieves threw women under the bus by asserting that the life of a pregnant woman faced with a life-threatening abortion is just a "matter of convenience."

Outrageous! Yet what 'we' knew all along…

The fight over Chen Guangcheng and the maelstrom of American reproductive politics

Chen Guangcheng is the Chinese lawyer and human rights activist who famously managed to escape house arrest and the country of China to land in New York City and a fellowship at New York University to study law. The fact that he is blind (and quite telegenic in his dark sunglasses) made his escape even more remarkable and compelling.

The American dream honeymoon is over. He is leaving New York University after a year and he is looking for a new position, and there are conflicting stories as to what happened. What is more clear is that Mr. Chen is struggling to adjust to the polarized atmosphere of American politics and how that polarization is represented by, and intensified by, divisions over reproductive politics.

Mr. Chen's story involves reproductive politics because of his activism against forced abortion and government abuses associated with China's one-child policy. Pro-life activists strongly oppose China's one-child policy in itself. They also are outraged by the…

Is there a federal power to ban abortions after 20 weeks?

The state of Texas thrust late-term abortion bans into the national spotlight because of legislation passed there over the heroic/infamous filibustering of state senator Wendy Davis. State laws that ban abortions after the point at which a fetus becomes viable are explicitly constitutional under Roe and Casey, so the fact that Texas wants to ban abortions later in pregnancy is itself not a big deal.

Texas' ban is controversial because
it bans abortions after 20 weeks, which is pegged to a specific time (rather than to a specific fetus' attainment of viability) and also weeks earlier than when any fetus is minimally capable of being viable (about 23 weeks); andthe argument for having bans set at 20 weeks is that science has now determined that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks and so aborting a fetus that feels pain is cruel and should be prevented. This is the hot flavor in anti-abortion legislation, because fighting for the right of women to have abortions this late in pregnancy m…

Sex is life in disguise?

From Kristen Luker, When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex-- and Sex Education-- Since the Sixties (18):
In the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud famously thought that life was sex in disguise. A joke, a pun, a slip of the tongue, a symptom, were all silent expressions of forbidden wishes in nineteenth-centure Vienna, and the forbidden was very often the sexual. By looking at sex and sex education today, I want to argue the other side of that equation: that sex is life in disguise. When Americans talk about sex, we are simultaneously and covertly talking about all the things going on in our world outside of the bedroom. Gender, power, conflict, cooperation, religion, culture, the future, and even (bear with me) the global economy are there . . . This is a fundamental insight about reproductive politics. Luker is well equipped to identify and communicate it, as she made the same point regarding abortion in her 1984 book Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood.

Many reproductive…

What does the contraceptive mandate actually require?

Paige Winfield Cunnigham published an interesting report in Politico about limits on women receiving free contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.

Set aside for a moment the politics of which organizations are exempted from the mandate and possible constitutional problems with the ACA. Cunningham reports that the administrative language of the mandate allows insurers to partially limit what specific contraceptives a woman can receive without a copay:
[A] woman with employer-sponsored coverage generally doesn’t have free access to every kind of FDA-approved contraception, with some exceptions if her doctor gives a specific prescription for health reasons. And backers of the requirement are concerned that insurers are imposing limits on coverage that go beyond what HHS intended.  The most in-depth guidance to date — released by the administration earlier this year — doesn’t detail exactly which birth control the health plans must cover without a co-pay.  Instead, the rule permits pla…

Enforcing laws against adultery-- in the U.S.?

One of the candidates for the governorship of Virginia would like to occasionally prosecute people for extramarital affairs. Politico reports:
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli once suggested that society would benefit from enforcing anti-adultery laws, according to a report dating to the Republican’s days as a state senator.  Speaking to Richmond’s Style Weekly magazine back in 2008, Cuccinelli defended laws criminalizing extramarital sex, saying that such restrictions “ought to stay on the books.”  “Frankly it wouldn’t hurt to enforce them more,” Cuccinelli is quoted saying. The magazine paraphrased Cuccinelli drawing a comparison to “perjury inasmuch as the occasional prosecution or two would get people thinking twice.” Cuccinelli's spokesperson issued the following statement to Politico: Ken Cuccinelli is someone who believes in and supports the institution of marriage. The campaign for the governorship in Virginia is about the concerns of voters, which include fir…

Erick Erickson and coat hangers: Missing the point

The coat hanger as a symbol and weapon in abortion politics is back-- or did it ever go away?

In an earlier post, I talked about the symbolic power of the coat hanger for pro-choice activists, regardless of how widely it was used in actual self-abortions.

Pro-life activists tend to miss the point of the coat hanger-- the question is not how often coat hangers were actually used before the constitutionalization of abortion in 1973, but how the coat hanger symbolically represents the desperation of women to have abortions and the lengths to which they will go to obtain one-- like using coat hangers, knitting needles, wires, etc. Especially for poor and working-class women, it is undisputed that many women experienced danger, pain, injury, and death in undergoing an assisted or self-induced abortion.

And then there's Erick Erickson, RedState blogger and pundit. He appeared to display a superlative level of willful obtuseness and sadism while gloating over the recent pro-life legisla…

Back this week

Dear readers,

I will be posting new material again this week. So much has happened in the world of reproductive politics while I have been away, so we will have lots to discuss and debate. Thanks for continuing to read my older posts in the meantime.