Ross Douthat’s European Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times’s Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed about the “Texas abortion experiment.” While the conservative columnist acknowledged that Texas’s new law could make “first-trimester abortions harder to obtain,” he spent much of the piece downplaying the very real threats this law poses to women’s health and talking up similarly restrictive laws in Europe.

Douthat looks to the example of a number of European countries, including Ireland, for how the Texas law could play out. Yet he rejects comparisons between the United States and other certain countries that enact restrictive abortion laws. According to Douthat, concerns that “Women’s lives will be endangered, their health threatened, their economic opportunities substantially foreclosed” in America stem from similar outcomes in poorer and more conservative areas of the world and therefore are not appropriate sources to examine. He also adds that it is difficult to determine if “those bans actually hold back progress and development.”

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Studies have shown that when abortion is illegal, women still terminate their pregnancies—they just do so in unhygienic and dangerous conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank whose work Douthat also links to in his column:

[Read more...]

Ireland’s Push to Legalize Abortion Continues

As Texas and North Carolina move towards sharply restricting abortion access, a country infamous for its own restrictive abortion laws is inching towards liberalization. Last week, Irish lawmakers passed a bill that would allow abortions to be performed to save a woman’s life. This vote moves the government closer to following a 1992 Supreme Court decision, which found that abortion should be legal if doctors feel it is necessary to protect a woman’s health, including if she threatens to commit suicide; however, six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of this ruling.

The latest push to liberalize Ireland’s law comes in the wake of Savita Halappanavar’s death last October, in a hospital in Galway. The 31-year-old Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted into the hospital with back pain; after being told that she was miscarrying, both Halappanavar and her husband requested that the pregnancy be terminated, but the hospital refused, saying that since the fetus still had a heartbeat they couldn’t provide an abortion. By the time the fetal heartbeat could no longer be detected, Halappanavar’s condition had worsened, and she died a week after entering the hospital.

While Catholic leaders wasted no time in denouncing last week’s vote, a June survey by the Irish Times found widespread support for legal abortion. Eighty-nine percent were in favor of abortions when the woman’s life is in danger, and almost as many—83%–support abortions when the fetus is unable to survive at birth. Eighty-one percent support abortion when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, and 78% are in favor when the pregnancy puts a woman’s health, as opposed to just her life, in danger.  (The survey had an error margin of three percentage points.) The current bill would only legalize abortion in cases where a woman’s life is in danger—including if she is at risk for suicide.

The bill goes to a final vote this week.

Looking for Common Ground in Pittsburgh

Last week I went to Pittsburgh to give a book talk. Before the event I wondered idly what kind of questions I might receive during the discussion portion, which has consistently been my favorite part of talking about Generation Roe. I’ve had my share of anti-choice audience members and even a crasher during a talk in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I actually like having such a diverse audience, having a chance to hear different opinions and perspectives.

The Pittsburgh audience was polite and attentive, at least while I was talking. But once the discussion portion began, it soon became clear that a number of members of the local Feminists for Life chapter and other anti-choice audience members would be satisfied with nothing less than raising their voices, calling me a liar, refuting the nonpartisan sources I used for research purposes, and willfully take both my written words and spoken answers completely out of context. The hour that I spent in a nonstop whirl of questions, comments, answers, and thinly veiled insults was quite unlike any other experience in my life.

[Read more...]

Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Remains Open!

A federal judge has blocked part of a state law that could have closed Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only clinic in Mississippi. Last year, the state passed a law that would have required that physicians at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals. While the physicians at JWHO tried to comply with that mandate, no area hospital would grant the privileges. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has represents the clinic, “the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic’s patients were not granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area-with several hospitals refusing to even process the physicians’ applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care.”

Today’s ruling by District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III blocks the remaining forms of enforcement of this requirement, and prevents the state Department of Health from revoking the clinic’s license for being unable to comply with the admitting regulation. In his opinion, Judge Jordan wrote that “Closing its doors would — as the state seems to concede in this argument — force Mississippi women to leave Mississippi to obtain a legal abortion.” The judge also stated that Mississippi’s position in the case “would result in a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not others.”

Kansas Weighs New Anti-Choice Laws

The South Wind Women’s Clinic in Wichita may offer a place for women to receive abortion care, but anti-choice legislators in the state are hoping to impose new restrictions on the procedure. Both the state House and Senate have passed a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, and anti-choice Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.

The bill does more than include language about when life begins. It would also mandate what information clinics must give women about abortion risks—including the medically inaccurate claim of a possible link between breast cancer and abortion—and fetal development; prohibit clinic employees from providing sex education in schools; ban terminations performed solely because of the sex of the fetus; and prohibit the use of tax credits, tax preferences, and public funds for abortion services, as well as prevent public health-care services provided by the state from being used in any way to carry out abortions.

[Read more...]

Hospital Refuses to Accomodate Pregnant Employee, Places Her on Unpaid Leave

Late last month, the National Women’s Law Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Amy Crosby, a pregnant hospital cleaner in Florida. Crosby was forced to take unpaid medical leave when her employer, Tallahassee Medical Hospital, refused to accomodate Crosby’s doctor’s request that she not be required to lift anything heavier than 20 pounds. At the time that Crosby was placed on leave, she was 23 weeks pregnant.

Tallahassee Medical Hospital’s response was particularly puzzling because they had previously allowed other employees who had temporary physical disabilities or on-the-job injuries to be transferred to lighter duty. Yet in Crosby’s case, she was told that if she did not return to work by April 11, she will be fired even though the hospital still refuses to follow her doctor’s request. 

[Read more...]

Why South Wind Women’s Center Matters

An abortion clinic opening in any U.S. city would make news these days, but the imminent opening of South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas has garnered a special kind of attention. The clinic, which will provide abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy as well as a wide range of other women’s health care services, will be located in Dr. George Tiller’s former clinic.

South Wind is owned by the Trust Women Organization, a nonprofit that was founded in 2010 by Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. Tiller for seven years. “We’re going to provide Pap smears, pelvic exams, well-woman care, contraceptive care, pregnancy confirmation and consultation, and STI (sexually transmitted infection) treatment” Burkhart has said. “We want to work with women who are having trouble getting pregnant and women who have been pregnant — the full range of services.” There are three physicians on staff—one local, two that will travel in from out of state—and a social worker that will offer both miscarriage and post-abortion counseling as well as lactation consultation.

[Read more...]

North Dakota: The Personal, The Political

Two very different but equally thought-provoking pieces about the North Dakota’s draconian new anti-choice laws were published today. In the Washington Post, Sarah Kliff’s interview with Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, discussed the challenges faced by both the clinic and the women in the state. The New York Times’s Motherlode blog published a guest post by Alison Piepmeier that focused on one particular aspect of these laws: that women will not be allowed to terminate pregnancies for reasons of genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.

I’ve long admired Kromenaker and her staff, so was happy to see her interviewed by such a prominent publication. North Dakota’s attempt to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which could be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy — has not gone into effect yet, and it is highly likely that the law be enjoined while it is challenged in the courts. But the very fact that it did pass is a clear sign that legislators in North Dakota have complete disregard for the realities of women’s lives. “The women who were actually in the clinic, the day it was signed, were just outraged,” Kromenaker tells Kliff. “They were just like, this is ridiculous. They have no idea what my life is like.”

In her Motherlode essay, Piepmeier offers readers a glimpse of what her life, as the parent of a child with Down syndrome, is like. She also discusses some of the reasons that women do decide to terminate pregnancies after receiving a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome, and as thought-provoking as both of these sections are, I was particularly interested in her take on how North Dakota really could welcome people with disabilities. Piepmeier’s suggestions are almost breathtaking in their rationality: provide early intervention services and medical care. Work to make schools more inclusive. Improve the housing options for adults, and strengthen rape prevention efforts.

Of course, a lot of those ideas run counter to the ideology promoted by the very politicians that supported North Dakota’s anti-choice laws. They’d prefer to just tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies and lavish support on fetuses, rather than the children that are actually living in their state today.

Help “Expose the Truth” About Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Crisis pregnancy clinics are one of the more insidious tactics that the anti-choice movement employs to give women misleading and dangerous information about pregnancy, contraception, and abortion. These clinics, or CPCs, are often located near reputable abortion clinics and given similar-sounding names in an effort to sound legitimate; many offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and imply that they are staffed by licensed medical providers and counselors, when in fact they often are not. And while the idea that any clinic purporting to help women would deliberately provide false information is disturbing enough, a Feminist Majority Foundation survey found that abortion clinics located near CPCs experience higher incidences of violence than those that are not.

The National Women’s Law Center recently released “Expose the Truth,” a toolkit that not only provides information about CPCs but also gives women useful resources if they would like to file a complaint against these “clinics.” NWLC is also running a week-long blog series about CPCs and to expose the truth about their misleading and harmful practices; the first entry can be found here. Both the toolkit and the series are great, accessible ways to learn about how we can all ensure that women receive the accurate, unbiased information that they are entitled to!

Arkansas Outlaws Abortions After Twelve Weeks

In the ongoing tennis match that is reproductive rights in Arkansas, Governor Mike Beebe vetoed a 12-week abortion ban earlier this week, mere days after the state Senate overruled Beebe’s veto of a 20-week abortion ban. (Both bans include exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and if the woman’s life is at risk; the 12-week ban also has an exemption for “highly lethal fetal disorders.”)

And then, today the Republican-controlled legislature overruled Beebe’s veto, making Arkansas the answer to the question, “Which state is most hostile to women?” … for this week, at least.

[Read more...]