Published: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 05:58:24 -0400
Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:30:00 -0400
(image) A provision in the Republican health care bill would bar Medicaid patients from choosing Planned Parenthood clinics for covered care. The idea, ostensibly, is to curtail abortion by driving Planned Parenthood out of business. Some folks also argue that the move is fiscally responsible. But contrary to conservative talking points, terminating Medicaid's relationship with Planned Parenthood would neither drive down costs for the publicly-funded health insurance program nor reduce dependence on abortion, as I note in today's Los Angeles Times.
If, as Republicans insist, patients can seek all the same services elsewhere, Medicaid costs will remain unchanged. The move won't necessarily affect Planned Parenthood's ability to provide abortions, since it doesn't rely on Medicaid reimbursements for this service. At the same time, less access to contraception and family-planning services could lead to greater demand to terminate pregnancies.
Presently, the U.S. health care scene is totally ill-equipped to handle the influx of low-income, reproductive- and sexual-health care patients we would see if we simply strip Planned Parenthood from patient options. America is already experiencing a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists, many private providers won't see Medicaid patients, and community health centers are stretched thin as it is. Meanwhile, more than half of the approximately 2.8 million patients Planned Parenthood sees annually cover their visits via Medicaid. Like it or not, Planned Parenthood—which provides everything from cervical cancer screenings and urinary tract infection treatment to emergency contraception, prenatal care, and vasectomies—is currently a crucial part of the medical care and family-planning ecosystem.
Want to reduce dependence on Planned Parenthood? Look at why it's so popular among Medicaid patients in the first place, what alternatives currently exist (not a lot), and how we can remedy this dearth of alternatives. In many cases, government rules are to blame. But simple changes—allowing birth control pills to be sold over-the-counter; clearing the regulatory way for telemedicine; rethinking scope-of-practice rules that prevent nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and midwives from performing tasks they're perfectly capable of; and repealing regulations that prevent non-traditional providers (like mobile or retail health care clinics) from setting up shop in medically underserved areas, for starters—could go a long way toward making it so Planned Parenthood isn't the only OB-GYN option for many. And as I argue in the Times,
Helping bring more medical options to marginalized populations is a worthy goal for even the most ardent Planned Parenthood supporter.
Whether one's underlying goal is ensuring access to vital reproductive and sexual healthcare, reducing women's need for abortions, or reducing publicly funded healthcare expenditures, focusing on breaking down barriers to innovative, independent and cost-effective care in underserved areas will make a world more difference than micromanaging where poor women can get birth control pills.
Read the whole thing here.
Mon, 20 Mar 2017 12:30:00 -0400Conservative starlet Tomi Lahren is facing a heap of backlash from her usual supporters after an appearance on ABC's The View in which she defended the decriminalized status of abortion. Lahren, who hosts a popular show (Tomi) for Glenn Beck network The Blaze and is a frequent guest on Fox News programs, said that as someone who "loves the Constitution" and believes in limited government she can't support the government "decid[ing] what women do with their bodies." "I'm pro-choice," Lahren admitted, calling it hypocritical to profess support for small government yet want to ban abortion. "I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well." Contra Lahren's critics, this is a perfectly coherent position, and one that was once perfectly respectable within the mainstream conservative movement. There's only tension between believing abortion should be legal—which is all being "pro-choice" means—and the Constitution's prescription of "life, liberty, and property" protection for all if you believe that personhood begins at conception. But one needn't believe this, nor even be a Christian at all, in order to champion conservative political philosophy. And even if one does believe that abortion is an immoral practice, it doesn't necessarily follow that one must wish it banned completely. There are plenty of pro-life Americans who believe a blanket ban on abortion is not the best way to end the practice, given how black markets work. They instead strive to end abortion through changing hearts and minds, advocating better pregnancy-prevention methods, working to expand adoption options, and things like that. Again, this might seem horrific to people who believe that aborting an eight-week old fetus is the exact same as murdering a 2- or 20- or 80-year-old, but that's a matter of moral or religious perspective. Many others who believe abortion is wrong are simultaneously able to hold that it's not the same degree of wrong as ending a life outside the womb, or that the competing rights of pregnant women make abortion morally justifiable in some circumstances. Listen, I am not glorifying abortion. I don't personally advocate for it. I just don't think it's the government's place to dictate. https://t.co/qRjbAtJdo7 — Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) March 19, 2017 These are all positions that can convey coherent internal logic and political/moral belief systems. You may think folks like Lahren—who says she is personally against abortion, even though simultaneously pro-choice—are wrong, and that abortion is always the gravest of transgressions or never so, but it's erroneous and unfair to brush aside their beliefs as simple stupidity, hypocrisy, opportunism, or cowardice. It's exactly this kind of reflexive dismissal of differing beliefs and moral gray areas that keeps us locked in the stupidest kind of culture war over abortion, one that manifests in it being the most important litmus test for acceptance into political movements on the right and left and results in a host of high-profile, symbolic battles that all lead back to the same status quo. Anyway, a lot of conservatives have been calling for Lahren's head since her View appearance, insisting it's an embarrassment and an outrage that such a pro-choice harpy could be a public face of Republicanism. As with Milo Yiannopoulos—who said all sorts of horrible things about women, Muslims, transgender people, etc., but was only ousted from polite conservatism after joking about pedophilic priests—it's telling (if predictable) that tepidly pro-choice views are the dealbreaker for the right with Lahren, while things like calling Black Lives Matter activists "the new KKK," referring to the Middle East as a "sandbox" that needs to be bombed, and defending the shooting of unarmed black men by cops never really rustled Republican jimmies.[...]
Sun, 19 Mar 2017 11:10:00 -0400
(image) The issue of abortion is guaranteed to come up this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As a federal judge, Gorsuch's record on abortion is basically silent. He has not had the opportunity to write an opinion in a major abortion rights case. But his scholarly record is a different matter. Gorsuch's non-judicial writings contain several powerful clues about his views on the constitutionality of abortion.
In his 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, for example, Gorsuch rejected the case for legalizing assisted suicide on the grounds that "human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and the taking of human life by private persons is always wrong." That language seemingly points in an anti-abortion direction.
Furthermore, in that same book, Gorsuch questioned whether the Supreme Court had any business defending any sort of unenumerated constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Drawing on the work of conservative legal scholar Robert Bork, Gorsuch argued that the Due Process Clause has been stretched "beyond recognition" when the Court interpreted it to be "the repository of other substantive rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution or its amendments."
The most famous modern cases dealing with "substantive rights not expressly enumerated in the text of the Constitution or its amendments" are Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which recognized a constitutional right to privacy, and Roe v. Wade (1973), which said the right to privacy included "a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Both cases cited the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment as a supporting authority.
Gorsuch's arguments about the Due Process Clause strongly suggest that he believes both Griswold and Roe were wrongly decided. The unanswered question is whether or not he believes those decisions should be overturned by the Supreme Court in future cases.
The Senate Judiciary Committee should ask him about that during this week's confirmation hearings.
Tue, 07 Mar 2017 10:01:00 -0500Texas state Sen. Charles Creighton (R) has introduced Senate Bill 25 that would eliminate the tort of wrongful birth. As FindLaw explains: Doctors have a duty to inform their patients about any known risks or complications involved in a pregnancy. Failing to do so can expose healthcare professionals to liability for medical malpractice. Plaintiffs in a wrongful birth lawsuit often claim that because they didn't have the medical information necessary to make an informed decision on whether to conceive or to carry a fetus to term, their child was born with significant birth defects. The new Senate bill reads: A cause of action may not arise, and damages may not be awarded, on behalf of any person based on the claim that but for the act or omission of another, a person would not have been permitted to have been born alive but would have been aborted. During the hearing on the bill, opponents argued that it would enable doctors to substitute their moral views for those of their patients. SB 25 is a not-so-subtle way of giving medical personnel the opportunity to impose the religious beliefs on pregnant women by withholding information about the condition of their fetus and depriving them of making an informed decision about continuing with their pregnancy, Margaret Johnson, speaking on behalf of League of Women Voters of Texas, according to KTLA television. ... Waco resident Cheryl Foster [added]: SB 25 is a flagrant admission of guilt on the part of Texas state lawmakers in their efforts to control women's lives. This Legislature has been on a mission to strip women of their reproductive rights, and this bill acknowledges that you do not want to be held accountable for your actions. At the hearing, the bill's chief sponsor Sen. Creighton explained he believed that current law encourages doctors to promote abortion as way to avoid litigation. He said: There's also concern without the bill being passed that physicians may advise in way just to prevent being sued personally. They may provide advice that is improper just to avoid litigation. Improper advice? Telling a woman about the health of her fetus is not advice; it's medical information. Physicians are in no way precluded from explaining options to the prospective parents. For example, parents who are against abortion could use the information to arrange for better care after the birth of their disabled infants. As background, it turns out that at least a third of parents whose fetuses are prenatally diagnosed with Down's syndrome choose not to terminate their pregnancies. Finally, proponents of the bill countered that patients to whom physicians have lied would still be able to sue for gross negligence and malpractice. Everyone should be highly skeptical of state-sponsored eugenics, that is, government officials making decisions about how its citizens are allowed to reproduce. One partial solution to this problem would be for obstetricians to tell all patients during their initial consultations about their moral views on abortion, and let patients decide then to which physicians they would prefer to go.[...]
Fri, 27 Jan 2017 20:20:00 -0500
Unlike with last weekend's festivities, there do not appear to be any aerial photographs of the 2017 March for Life online. Nor are any mainstream media outlets reporting crowd number estimates, best I can tell.
So it's very hard to say how many anti-abortion demonstrators came out in the nation's capital today. I can say that from my perch atop a building overlooking Constitution Avenue, it looked like a hell of a lot. It took more than two hours for the crowd to pass me on foot as they traveled from the Washington Monument across town to the Supreme Court steps. The guy next to me on the roof shot a time-lapse video of the whole thing, if you'd like to see the mass of people for yourself:
But what stood out more than the size were the demographic characteristics of the crowd: It was overwhelmingly young people. Sure, there were Baby Boomers, and nuns, and priests, and parents with very small children. But for every one person outside the high school/college student demographic, there seemed to be five or ten inside of it. They came to Washington by the busload to speak, listen, march, and pray.
Over 58 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, according to National Right to Life. The 44th anniversary of the decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, was last Sunday.
Evidence suggests libertarians are more likely to be pro-choice than pro-life. But as I've written, there's nothing logically inconsistent about thinking people of all ages and stages should be protected from aggression.
Below is a taste of what I saw at the march.
Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:00:00 -0500On his first Monday in office, Donald Trump signed executive orders instituting a hiring freeze for all federal government positions outside the military and reinstating a ban on international aid going to nonprofits that provide abortions or promote information on them, regardless of what other services they offer. The contentious abortion rule represents a back and forth that's been taking place under Republican and Democratic administrations since the 1980s. Known as the "Mexico City Policy," it was instituted under President Ronald Reagan, reversed by Bill Clinton, restored by George W. Bush, and again reversed by Barack Obama. Not to be confused with the 1973 Helms Amendment, which bans groups from using U.S. government funds directly for abortion services abroad, the Mexico City Policy targets broader conduct, requiring that "as a condition of their receipt of federal funds," groups must agree to "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations." A diverse group of more than 100 public health, women's issues, and civil liberties organizations have already issued a statement opposing the return of the Mexico City Policy, which they refer to as "the global gag rule." "The global gag rule ... interferes with the doctor-patient relationship by restricting medical information healthcare providers may offer, limits free speech by prohibiting local citizens from participating in public policy debates, and impedes women's access to family planning by cutting off funding for many of the most experienced health care providers who chose to prioritize quality reproductive-health services and counseling over funding that restricts care and censors information," it says. Groups endorsing the statement include the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Amnesty International USA, the National Organization for Women, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking, the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation, the International Medical Corps, New York University's Global Justice Clinic,and Human Rights Campaign. The Mexico City Policy is one of several federal aid conditions that have been contingent on controversial social issues. Since 2003, the U.S. has banned groups that get grants to fight HIV/AIDs and/or human trafficking from supporting the decriminalization of prostitution. Referred to as the anti-prostitution pledge, the policy was proposed for anti-HIV groups as part of Bush's "Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief," passed by Congress in May 2003 as the "United States Leadership against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act." It stipulated that no grant money could be used "to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or sex trafficking" nor to "provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." The anti-prostitution pledge was also part of the bipartisan 2003 reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which stated that no federal money "may be used to promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution" and no funds "may be used to implement any program" by an organization that "has not stated in either a grant application, a grant agreement, or both, that it does not promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution." Many public-health and human-rights groups opposed these policies on the grounds that decriminalizing prostitution is often supported as a means to stop the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. The pledge was initially applied only to foreign nonprofits, but in 2005 the Bush administration began applying it to U.S. groups, too. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the part of the pledge requiring anti-HIV/AIDs groups to explicitly denounce prostitution wa[...]
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:24:00 -0500The Women's March on Washington bills itself as a big-tent rally for anyone "who believes women's rights are human rights." Scheduled for the day after Donald Trump's inauguration as president, the Women's March goal, according to its website, is "bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds in our nation's capital on January 21, 2017, to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination." But recent actions by Women's March organizers suggest this tribute to inclusivity is little more than lip-service. A statement of "Unity Principles" for the march formerly professed to "stand in solidarity with sex workers' rights movements." But as Kate McGrew first pointed out Tuesday, this line has since been removed from the Women's March platform. In its place, the platform now promises to stand in solidarity "with all those exploited for sex and labor." The switch makes clear that the Women's March now only stands with people exploited for sex, not those abused and exploited by the state for having sex. If you're a victim, Big Feminism is with you. If not, well... what do you think this is, a movement respectful of women's agency or something? Update: Late Tuesday afternoon, the Women's March updated its position on sex-worker rights once again. (See screenshots of all three versions here.) The latest version of principles on the Women's March website states: We stand in solidarity with the sex workers' rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights. Women's March organizers did not provide a reason for the change, did not respond to my request for comment Tuesday, and did not respond to the multiple people tweeting @WomensMarch for clarification. On Monday, however, the organization was quick to put out a press release when it came under fire for allowing an anti-abortion group, New Wave Feminists, to sign on as one of hundreds of official partners. News of the group's inclusion spread after The Atlantic published an article about anti-abortion advocates at the Women's March. Some would be there to protest abortion, the article noted, while others were just "looking for solidarity. Many pro-life women felt just as outraged as pro-choice women about Donald Trump's conduct and comments," it said. Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the leader of New Wave Feminists, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump. She told Slate's Ruth Graham that she viewed the Women's March as a way for "a strong, united female voice to say 'we're watching you and we're holding you accountable,'" and that her group was "really excited to be included in that voice." https://t.co/Rn6myKjRSD Nope, you cannot be anti-choice and feminist. Forcing birth on unwilling women is a misogynist act. — Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) January 16, 2017 But many Women's March participants and publicists weren't so excited to share in anti-Trump pro-woman solidarity with those who don't identify as pro-choice. "Horrified that the @womensmarch has partnered w/an anti-choice org," tweeted Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, author of several books about feminism, on Monday afternoon. "Plse reconsider - inclusivity is not about bolstering those who harm us." Other prominent writers and activists in the progressive-feminist sphere shared similar sentiments. Intersectional feminism does not include a pro-life agenda. That's not how it works! The right to choose is a fundamental part of feminism. — roxane gay (@rgay) January 16, 2017 By late afternoon, Women's March organizers had issued an official statement, noting that "the anti-choice organization in question" was no longer an official partner and that they were only "marching on behalf of individuals who share the view that women deserve the right to make their own reproductive decisions." That's[...]
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) An Alberta judge has ruled that the city of Grande Prairie did not violate the free speech rights of an anti-abortion group when it banned their ads from transit buses. The ads featured photos of fetuses and read "Abortion kills children. End the killing." The judge said the ads could traumatize women who have had abortions or who plan to have one.
Fri, 06 Jan 2017 11:45:00 -0500This week marks the end of the House of Representatives panel looking into fetal-tissue procurement by U.S. research companies. Using tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research is legal in America, though profiting off the sale of said tissue is illegal. Despite a 15-months-long investigation into Planned Parenthood practices regarding tissue from aborted fetuses, the now-disbanded Select Investigative Panel could not show that the nonprofit health-care conglomerate made a profit off of fetal-tissue provided to researchers. The panel's final report suggests that fetal-tissue procurement companies DV Biologicas and StemExpress may have violated this no-profit mandate, but the most it said about Planned Parenthood was that one of its hundreds of clinics, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, "may have violated both Texas Law and U.S. Law when it sold fetal tissue to the University of Texas" by using an imprecise or unapproved method of determining reimbursement costs. The matter was referred to the Texas Attorney General's Office. Still, the panel recommended that Planned Parenthood be barred from accepting Medicare patients going forward (a move Republicans have misleadingly described as "defunding" Planned Parenthood) and that the National Institutes of Health stop funding fetal tissue research. "Human fetal tissue research makes a vanishingly small contribution to clinical and research efforts," the panel's final 413-page report states. But as Science writer Meredith Wadman points out, several key statements used to support the assertion that the impact of fetal-tissue research has been negligent are wholly and demonstrably false. Wadman, a veteran science journalist with a medical degree from the University of Oxford, dissected three of these false claims yesterday, starting with the statement that "in over 100 years of unrestricted clinical research, human fetal tissue has failed to provide a single medical treatment." In fact, "several important medicines now on the market were created using fetal tissue," notes Wadman. "Amgen's Enbrel battles rheumatoid arthritis; Genentech's Pulmozyme helps children with cystic fibrosis clear the thick mucus that clogs their lungs; and Nuwiq, made by Octapharma, treats boys and men with hemophilia, a life-threatening bleeding disorder." Equally untrue: the Congressional panel's claim that "none of the nearly 75 vaccine formulations currently licensed in the United States is produced using human fetal tissue." In reality, "the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines, derived from two fetuses that were aborted, respectively, in 1962 in Sweden and in 1966 in the United Kingdom, are used to produce" quite a few vaccines that are licensed and marketed in the U.S., notes Wadman. These include vaccines for rabies, chicken pox, shingles, Hepatitis A, polio, rubella, and the adenovirus, produced by pharmaceutical companies including Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi-Pasteur. Along these same lines, the report's claim that "human fetal tissue has never been used to make the polio vaccine" is inccorect. Swedish scientists used fetal cells to develop and propagate polio vaccines in the 1950s; Yugoslavia did so in the 1960s; and U.S. polio vaccines made by Pfizer in the 1970s were derived from fetal-cell lines. French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur still uses polio vaccines derived from cells from an aborted fetus.[...]
Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:30:00 -0500
(image) President-elect Donald Trump has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, the seminal 1973 case affirming a right to legal abortion across America. If it happens, it won't be a popular move. According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, less than one-third of Americans think that Roe should be overturned.
In the Pew poll, conducted November 30 through December 5, 2016, just 28 percent of respondents said they hoped the historic ruling would be history, while 69 percent—including a majority of Republicans—said the Supreme Court should leave Roe alone. Among Democrats or Democratic-leaning respondents, 84 percent said they did not want to see Roe overturned, while 53 percent of Republican respondents agreed.
Among respondents who described themselves as "moderate" or "liberal" Republicans, only 27 percent supported overturning Roe, ccompared to 57 percent of those who described themselves as "conservative" Republicans.
"Public opinion about the 1973 case has held relatively steady in recent decades, though the share saying the decision should not be overturned is up slightly from four years ago," Pew notes. In January 2013, 63 percent said that Roe should not be overturned. In 2003, it was 62 percent and, in 1992, just 60 percent.
Republican opinion remains little-changed since 1992, when 52 percent of GOP respondents told Pew they support Roe v. Wade. At that time, just 66 percent of Democrats said the same.
Men were slightly more likely to support overturning Roe than were women (30 percent, versus 26 percent). And contra claims that America is getting less pro-choice, those age 50 or older were more likely than their younger counterparts to say Roe should go (33 percent, versus 24 percent).
Education was also associated with a divide on Roe, with 35 percent of respondents who had a high-school education or less saying it should be overturned but just 23 percent of those with a college degree and 12 percent of those with a post-graduate degree saying so. And while Catholic and Protestant support for overturning Roe was roughly equal—34 percent and 35 percent, respectively—nearly half of white, evangelical Protestants said they think Roe should be overturned.
Thu, 22 Dec 2016 00:01:00 -0500In the presidential campaign, no issue separated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton more starkly than abortion. He promised to ban it after the 20-week mark of a pregnancy and appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. She vowed to protect "the right to safe and legal abortions" against all challenges. With Republicans in control of Congress and most state governments, expect numerous battles on this front. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a relative moderate in the GOP presidential primaries, just signed a bill largely banning the procedure after the 20th week of a pregnancy, with no exception for cases of rape or incest. Seventeen other states have similar laws, two of which have been struck down by federal courts. But pro-life people shouldn't get their hopes too high. Trump would need at least one more Supreme Court vacancy (besides the one left by Antonin Scalia's death) to have any hope of reversing Roe—and his arrival in the White House will provide reason enough for every liberal justice to stay. Nor would the demise of Roe mean a nationwide ban on abortion. It would only allow states to make their own decisions. In that event, it would most likely remain legal in some 20 states, including California, New York, Illinois, Florida and Washington. Women in states with abortion bans could travel to those places—or Canada—to end their pregnancies. Activist groups would help poor women do so. Medicines that induce abortion would surely be available on the black market, as recreational drugs are. As in the days before Roe, some women would seek out medical professionals providing illegal abortions or even try to self-induce, despite the risks. If the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, legal restrictions are of minimal value. By raising the cost and effort required for women to end their pregnancies, such laws would prevent some from doing so. But the reduction would most likely be small. Making much difference in abortion rates requires a different approach. Abortion is an intractable issue because it involves an irreconcilable conflict between two supreme values: protection of life on one side and personal freedom and physical autonomy on the other. But it's not impossible to uphold both. Hillary Clinton was onto something when she said in 2008 that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare—and by 'rare,' I mean rare." What is needed is a recognition by pro-choice people that there is something awful about destroying a fetus and a recognition by pro-life people that there is something terrible about depriving a woman of control of her body. Such understanding might impel the two sides to look for ways to prevent both horrors. Katie Watson, a professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, notes that "45 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned—and 42 percent of unplanned pregnancies are terminated with abortions." One obvious way to bring down the abortion rate is to give women ready access to contraception. This, alas, is where the Republican Party's concern for life collides with its contempt for Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act mandates that health insurance providers, including Medicaid, offer 18 different types of birth control, from the pill to sterilization, at no cost to the patient. Repealing that rule would almost certainly mean more pregnancies terminated. We know contraception can curb abortion. Between 2008 and 2011, reports the Guttmacher Institute, the unintended pregnancy rate dropped by 12 percent—and the abortion rate fell by 13 percent. Behind the declines was the growing use of long-acting contraceptives (IUDs and implants), which are exceptionally reliable. How reliable? "Comparable to tubal ligation," says Watson. Republican politicians want not only to scrap Obam[...]
Wed, 07 Dec 2016 11:08:00 -0500A measure that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—that's around three- to four- weeks post-conception—has managed to pass both houses of the Ohio legislature, despite the fact that federal courts have struck down all similar bans as unconstitutional. The measure, which cleared the Senate Tuesday as a last-minute addition to a larger bill concerning state child-abuse laws, states that "except when there is a medical emergency or medical necessity," Ohio doctors shall not perform abortions "if it has been determined that the unborn human individual the pregnant woman is carrying has a detectable fetal heartbeat." Detection of a fetal heartbeat is "a milestone with no meaning to the federal laws governing abortion," as Molly Redden noted back in 2013, when Arkansas and North Dakota first passed heartbeat-based abortion bans. But "the people who support these laws dream that they will provide a legal basis for overturning Roe v. Wade," in which the U.S. Supreme Court said states cannot ban abortion before a fetus could live on its own outside of the womb. Generally, a fetal heartbeat can be detected at a "gestational age" of around six weeks. But gestational age is calculated from the first day of a pregnant woman's last menstrual period, and doesn't actually refer to the number of weeks a zygote or fetus has existed. A gestational age of six weeks means it's been some three to four weeks since an egg was fertilized. In effect, a measure like the one Ohio approved would ban abortion at a point in pregnancy when many women don't even realize they're pregnant yet, and long before common chromosomal and developmental abnormalities can be detected. And even if a pregnant woman takes a test exactly 28 days after the start of her last period, that leaves her with just about two weeks to come to a decision about the pregnancy and then obtain the money for, schedule, and obtain an abortion (all while circumventing Ohio's various waiting periods), in a state where many women live hours from the nearest abortion clinic. This could put the heartbeat bill at odds with not just Roe but the more recent Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That case upheld the idea "that the Constitution protects a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy in its early stages," but presented a new standard for analyzing whether restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional: did they pose an "undue burden" on women's access to abortion. Even if a fetus could somehow be declared viable at around a month old, presenting women with a mere one or two week window to terminate a pregnancy would seem to fail the undue burden test. Many prominent anti-abortion advocates have opposed measures like Ohio's heartbeat bill, recognizing that they "have no chance in the courts," as Paul Linton, author and former general counsel for Americans United for Life, has said. State and federal courts have struck down such measures from Arkansas and North Dakota, with North Dakota's bill going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In January, the Court upheld a lower court's ruling striking down the measure. But that was before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the election of Donald Trump. A future Supreme Court could perhaps rule differently. Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said repeatedly that previous versions of the heartbeat bill weren't worth passing because they would be struck down as unconstitutional, but "Trump's election changed the dynamic," he said. It's unclear whether Ohio Gov. John Kasich will sign the heartbeat bill into law. Just as the detection of a fetal heartbeat has no particular relevance to federal abortion guidelines, it's a similarly poor marker of moral or medical significance. Our ability to detect a fetal heartbeat [...]
Fri, 04 Nov 2016 13:15:00 -0400
(image) The percentage of Americans who believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances is at the highest it has been in more than two decades, according to the latest national poll from Pew Research Center. In the October 20-25 survey, 59 percent of respondents said abortion should be generally legal, while just 37 percent said it should be banned in all or most circumstances. "Support for legal abortion has fluctuated in recent years," Pew noted, "but is at its highest level since 1995."
Among Republicans only, beliefs about abortion in the latest poll were almost directly inverse that of the general U.S. population, with 62 percent of Republican respondents saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases and just 34 percent saying the opposite. There was little difference among men and women, with 32 percent of Republican women and 36 percent of Republican men expressing pro-choice views.
Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of Democrats (79 percent) say abortion should be legal most of the time—up from 70 percent in Pew's March survey—and just 18 percent say it should generally be illegal.
"The partisan gap in support for legal abortion, 45 percentage points, is at its widest point in close to a decade," Pew points out.
On the Democrat side, it's women who have driven the increase in pro-abortion sentiment since the Pew's March poll. In that one, 68 percent of Democratic women and 75 percent of Democratic men said abortion should generally or always be allowed. In October's poll, the percentage of Democratic men saying the same was down slightly, at 71 percent, but the percentage of Democratic women who said abortion should mostly or always be legal shot up 18 percentage points, to 85 percent.
Mon, 31 Oct 2016 15:42:00 -0400While the overall U.S. abortion rate continues to decline, a growing percentage of legal abortions in America are being induced via drugs, not surgery, with 43 percent of abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics relying on this method in 2014. That's up from 35 percent in 2010, according to a Reuters analysis of clinic data. And in states without strong legal restrictions on abortion pills, the rates relative to surgical abortion were even higher. In Michigan, they comprised 55 percent of all abortions and in Iowa, 64 percent. The two medications used for drug-induced abortions in America—mifepristone and misoprostol—were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 16 years ago. "The method was expected to quickly overtake the surgical option, as it has in much of Europe," Reuters notes. "But U.S. abortion opponents persuaded lawmakers in many states to put restrictions on their use." Most of these state restrictions have been rooted in religion, ideology, and politics rather than good-faith concern for women's safety. Taking mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy—aka medical abortion (in contrast with surgical abortion)—has been found just as safe if not safer than surgical abortion, and it doesn't require a woman to be put under anesthesia or undergo an invasive procedure. Even more revolutionary, this sort of abortion doesn't require—at least not for medical reasons—a visit to a hospital or any sort of specialized abortion clinic, nor the employ of a specialized doctor. After a basic health check-up and an ultrasound to determine gestational age (the pill regimen is only recommended and approved up to 10 weeks pregnancy), the whole process involves ingesting one pill and, within the next 72 hours, ingesting another pill. This isn't to say medical abortion is an easy process for women, who report extreme cramping, nausea, and other difficulties for a few hours to a few days after taking the pills. But it is, for many women, easier than obtaining a surgical abortion, with one of the biggest benefits being that it can cost significantly less. This, combined with its ability to take place outside a special health facility, makes it much more accessible to rural and low-income women. And increased accessibility may lead, in turn, to earlier pregnancy terminations. Since medical abortion has been legal in the U.S., the percentage of abortions performed in the first six weeks gestation has grown significantly. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of U.S. abortions occurring within the first six weeks of pregnancy rose 24 percent between 2003 and 2012. Meanwhile, the percentage of abortions occurring at or after 13 weeks remained relatively unchanged. This means the biggest shift was from abortions occurring between weeks six and 13 toward those occurring between weeks one and six. This doesn't necessarily mean medical abortions drove the shift to earlier abortions, but it is one plausible (partial) explanation, given the simultaneous growth in medical abortions as a share of overall (and especially early-term) procedures. Between 2001 and 2011, medical abortions went from 6 percent of all abortions to 23 percent, according to the CDC's most recent report. Some have worried that the increased availability of abortion drugs has or will lead to an increase in the total number of abortions that occur in America. But so far, these fears seem to be unfounded: between 2002 and 2011, the total number of U.S. abortions decreased 13 percent, according to the CDC. The abortion rate—the number of abortions per every 1,000 women ages 15- to 44-years-old—was also down, by 14 percent, to 13.9 abortion[...]
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 -0400In the U.S., most abortions are procured within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Yet our political discussions about reproductive freedom frequently center on late-term abortions. And so it went Wednesday during the final 2016 presidential debate, with a segment on Roe v. Wade quickly devolving into arguments about "partial birth abortion." In Hillary Clinton's ideal world, "you can take a baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby," Donald Trump told debate viewers. "Based on what she is saying and based on where she's going and where she's been, you can take baby and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month. On the final day." As many people have pointed out, this is not true, at least not in any meaninful way. While there are a few states where a woman could theoretically get an elective abortion at any point in pregnancy, it would not be done via "intact dilation and evacuation"—the medical term for the procedure people refer to as "partial birth abortion"—or anythng like "rip[ping] the baby out of the womb." And while intact dilation and evacuation (D&X) is legal when a woman's life is at stake if she doesn't terminate the pregnancy, there's little chance a woman who's been wanting her pregnancy up until that point, or the doctor treating her, will choose D&X when there are less controversial and legally ambiguous ways to accomplish the abortion. There's also little evidence that anyone actually chooses to terminate a pregnancy "at nine months." Just a little over 1 percent of U.S. abortions take place at any point after around five months pregnancy. Trump's understanding of how abortions work, and when they are and aren't allowed, is severely lacking. But he's not alone: a lot of people seem to believe that U.S. laws permit any pregnant woman to abort a fetus at any time for any reason. So let's take a closer look at later-term abortion laws in America... "Partial-birth abortion" is illegal in the U.S. Politicians who bring up "partial birth abortion" do so because they know it can spur strong and visceral reactions of disgust and moral indignation, not because it's especially relevant to U.S. health care, morals, or laws circa 2016. For 13 years, since 2003, federal law has prohibited physicians from performing D&X procedures, aka partial birth abortions, at any point in a pregnancy. Almost a decade ago, in 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the ban as constitutional. In addition, 19 states have their own laws against these sorts of abortions. While the federal ban does include an exception for situations where the mother's life is endangered, abortion doctors claim they avoid the procedure anyway, as there are other options with less liklihood of legal repercussions. Even before the federal ban, D&X procedures accounted for just 0.2 percent of all abortions, and most of these were performed before the point where a fetus can feel pain or survive on its own outside of the womb. Late-term abortion is illegal in most of the U.S. A typical human pregnancy lasts 38 weeks after an egg is fertilized. Only seven states and the District of Columbia allow abortion at any point during a pregnancy, according to reproductive-research org the Guttmacher Institute. In the other 43 states, abortion is banned—with limited exceptions, such as for the safety of the mother—after the second trimester, after the point of fetal viability (when a fetus could live on its own outside the womb), or after a specified number of weeks (generally 20-24). When exceptions are required, many states require two physicians to sign-off on the procedure before it's permissable. Very few U.S. women abort after 20 weeks [...]