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Published: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2016 08:16:39 -0400


Late-Term Abortions Are Rare and 'Partial Birth Abortions' Illegal. Why Do They Keep Dominating the Reproductive-Rights Debate?

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 -0400

In 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 pregnancy. Even with late-term abortion allowed in some parts of the country and under certain circumstances, nearly all abortions performed in the U.S. happen before the end of the second trimester. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2012, 65.8 percent of abortions took place within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and 91.4 percent occurred [...]

Brickbat: Tell Me About It

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a California law that forces religious pregnancy clinics to give women information on how to obtain an abortion. The court ruled that the law does not violate anyone's First Amendment rights.

California Christians Should Go to Jail Rather Than Post State-Mandated Abortion Signs, Says Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 14:30:00 -0400

Christian leader James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is urging the owners of pro-life pregnancy centers in California to practice civil disobedience in the face of a new rule dubbed "The Reproductive FACT Act" by state legislators. "If California attempts to enforce this law," Dobson said in a Tuesday statement, "then do not comply. Make them put you in jail." The measure requires all licensed pregnancy clinics to post and distribute the following notice: "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [phone number]." Pregnancy centers that do not offer medical services and are not licenced by the state must post signs announcing that the facility "is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services." A lawsuit challenging the measure on First Amendment grounds was rebuffed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last week, upholding a lower court decision not to halt enforcement of the law. "Christians across America must express their outrage at the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling to uphold California's so called 'Reproductive FACT Act,'" said Dobson. "Since Roe. V. Wade, privately funded crisis pregnancy centers across America have provided a refuge and an alternative to women who might have otherwise chosen abortion. ... This ruling now forces these clinics to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, and it is an affront to our constitutionally mandated rights to life and to religious freedom." "This decision is further affirmation of the importance of this presidential election," said Dobson. "Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be responsible for appointing the replacement of Antonin Scalia, and–in all likelihood–two to three other Supreme Court Justices. That court will eventually decide whether or not this remains the law in California and becomes law across America." Lawyer Ken White, of Popehat, has more about the California law and the court's decision, which is worth reading if you care about why the 9th Circuit decided how it did. A lot of it turned on the level of scrutiny being applied. When a court applies scrutiny, it's holding the government's justification for a challenged law to a standard. How tough the standard is depends on the nature of the law and how the plaintiff says it's defective. In some situations, courts apply strict scrutiny — for instance, laws that punish speech based on its content generally trigger strict scrutiny. If a court applies strict scrutiny, the government must show that the law in question serves a compelling government interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Practically speaking, applying strict scrutiny almost always means that the court will strike down the law. In the middle you've got intermediate scrutiny, which requires the government to show that the law promotes an important government interest and is substantially related to that interest. At the low end you've got the "rational basis" test, which almost any law can pass. In this case, the Ninth Circuit decided the compelled speech in question was "professional speech," which triggers intermediate scrutiny. White notes that "content-based speech regulation often—usually—triggers strict scrutiny." But in this case, "the court said that while the law is content-based, it's viewpoint-neutral—that is, it does not discriminate based on one particular opinion or view, and applies to all clinics regardless of how they feel about abortion." "The 'viewpoint neutral' argument seems odd here," he adds. "Under the Ninth Circuit's logic you could compel any statement so long as you compelled it for everyone equally—both people who agreed with it and peo[...]

New at Reason: Judge Andrew Napolitano on Election 2016 and Being a Pro-Life Libertarian

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 11:55:00 -0400

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"Do you know anybody living who expressly consents to the existence of the government and consents to what it does?" asks Judge Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst for Fox News, syndicated columnist, and author of, most recently, Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Assault on Civil Liberties. "Your rights, my rights, are integral to our humanity. The government can't take them away by majority vote!"

Reason's Nick Gillespie caught up with the judge at this year's FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarians in Las Vegas, to discuss how his traditional Catholicism intersects with his libertarian politics, why electing Trump or Clinton will likely lead to the "demise of the Constitution as we understand it," why he thinks Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson won't win in November, his commitment to open borders, and the philosophical underpinnings to his pro-life stance on abortion.

"My opposition to abortion is not only because of Church teaching, but also because of a rational examination of the baby growing in the womb and a belief in the non-aggression principle," Napolitano explains. "The non-aggression principle prevents you from interfering with the life or the property of another human being without moral justification. There is no moral justification for killing a child in the womb!"

Runs about 30 minutes.

Edited by Ian Keyser and Joshua Swain. Cameras by Austin Bragg and Jim Epstein.

For transcription and downloadable files, click here.

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Election 2016 and Being a Pro-Life Libertarian

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 11:45:00 -0400

"Do you know anybody living who expressly consents to the existence of the government and consents to what it does?" asks Judge Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst for Fox News, syndicated columnist, and author of, most recently, Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Assault on Civil Liberties. "Your rights, my rights, are integral to our humanity. The government can't take them away by majority vote!" Reason's Nick Gillespie caught up with the judge at this year's FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarians in Las Vegas, to discuss how his traditional Catholicism intersects with his libertarian politics, why electing Trump or Clinton will likely lead to the "demise of the Constitution as we understand it," why he thinks Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson won't win in November, his commitment to open borders, and the philosophical underpinnings to his pro-life stance on abortion. "My opposition to abortion is not only because of Church teaching, but also because of a rational examination of the baby growing in the womb and a belief in the non-aggression principle," Napolitano explains. "The non-aggression principle prevents you from interfering with the life or the property of another human being without moral justification. There is no moral justification for killing a child in the womb!" Runs about 30 minutes. Edited by Ian Keyser and Joshua Swain. Cameras by Austin Bragg and Jim Epstein. Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notification when new material goes live. This is a rush transcript. Check any quotations against the actual recording. NICK GILLESPIE: I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason TV. Today, we're talking with Judge Andrew Napolitano. He is with Fox News. He's the senior judicial analyst and the author of many books, and a great friend to freedom and to Reason. Thanks for talking with us. NAPOLITANO: Pleasure being with you, Nick. Thank you GILLESPIE: 2016 election. Stuff's getting real. What do you see as the major stakes in this game? There's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the major party candidates. Are either of them acceptable as President of the United States? NAPOLITANO: A complex question for me working at Fox News, being aware of Mrs. Clinton's criminal behavior, having a personal financial relationship with Donald Trump. I might add the Donald Trump I know personally does not resemble the Donald Trump that you see on the campaign trail. GILLESPIE: And what is your—what is your personal— NAPOLITANO: I own a piece of real estate with others that he manages. GILLESPIE: Oh, OK. NAPOLITANO: And the people that own this with me love him because the value of it keeps going up, and he is worth what we pay his management company to, to improve it. GILLESPIE: So let's stipulate he's a fine business man or property manager but— NAPOLITANO: At least in this particular case, he is. GILLESPIE: But should he be president? NAPOLITANO: Well, the issue, as I see, it is the likely demise of constitutional government as we understand it, as we have come to understand it. It is— GILLESPIE: And this is whether it's Clinton or Trump? NAPOLITANO: Correct! GILLESPIE: Yeah. NAPOLITANO: Correct, Nick, because they each believe in their own version of big government. Neither of them recognizes the natural law of restrains on government. Neither of them recognizes the constitutional restraints on government. They each believe they can use the powers of government to build their version of big government, whether it's sort of an economic egalitarianism that Donald Trump preaches, or whether it's a Bernie Sanders, redistribution of wealth which Hillary now embraces. GILLESPIE: So, how does this happen? I mean, because these—they didn't come out of nowhere. I mean, they are the Republican and Democratic nominees. What's going on with the parties in America? Because it's not just the individuals[...]

What the Supreme Court Ruling Means for U.S. Abortion Access

Mon, 27 Jun 2016 17:36:00 -0400

In its first significant abortion ruling since 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday held that Texas abortion regulations were unconstitutional. As Damon Root noted here earlier, the 2013 Texas statute, known as H.B. 2, was "one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the United States." With four liberal-leaning justices and three strict conservatives on the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing voter in this case, and his siding against the state of Texas tipped the scales to Whole Women's Health clinic favor by a vote of 5-3. The decision means Texas can't require all abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital nor force abortion clinics to meet surgical-center standards regardless of whether they perform surgical abortions. With similar regulations recently passed—and challenged in court—across the country, the Court's ruling could effect abortion access in all regions of the U.S.  The Court found that the Texas restrictions (more background on them here) put an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions without serving a legitimate interest of the state—i.e., keeping patients safe or holding doctors and clinics accountable). "Neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the majority. "Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution." Backhanded regulation of abortion clinics sold under the guise of women's safety has been one of the most popular, and successful, tactics of the pro-life movement in recent years. More than 20 U.S. states require abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical-center standards, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and more than 14 states say abortion doctors must have some affiliation with a local hospital. These "TRAP laws" (targeted regulation of abortion providers) have forced shut abortion clinics in Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, and elsewhere.  Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court's decision matters far beyond Texas—and not just geographically. It gets to a fundamental debate about legal abortion in America, one last opined upon federal in 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey: is abortion a limited right subject to strong state subjectivity or a fundamental constitutional right with which legislatures may not interfere?  "Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Constitution protects not just the theoretical right to abortion, but the right of a woman to actually get one without unwarranted interference from politicians," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on Monday. "The decision should send a loud signal to politicians that they can no longer hide behind sham rationales to shut down clinics and prevent a woman who has decided to end a pregnancy from getting the care she needs." Its "effects are likely to be felt around the country," stated the ACLU.   The Supreme Court's decision doesn't automatically invalidate state laws similar to Texas' H.B. 2, but should they be challenged in court (and many already have been), state judges now have the SCOTUS decision to serve as a precedent, making their revocation likely. Still, as Vox writer Sarah Kliff noted, "one thing that stands out about the Texas case is that it was very facts-based: Justices wrote extensively about the effect the law was having on clinic closures, the distance that women had to drive, and their overall access to abortion. So there is a possible world in which abortion opponents try to mount a defense with different facts — if they can make the argument that in their state, abortion access hasn't changed significantly in the wake of new laws."  But should such TRAP laws prove no long[...]

Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Abortion Restrictions

Mon, 27 Jun 2016 10:28:00 -0400

(image) In 2013 the state of Texas passed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the United States. Today the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two central components of that law.

At issue in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt was whether Texas exceeded its lawful regulatory powers when it enacted two provisions from the state law known as H.B. 2. The first provision required all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same standards required of ambulatory surgical centers. The second provision required all doctors who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Texas justified its restrictions in the name of health and safety and urged the Supreme Court to defer to the state's regulatory stance. Whole Woman's Health argued that the restrictions were "the epitome of unnecessary health regulations" and served as a convenient pretext for driving lawful abortion providers out of business.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the state of Texas by a vote of 5-3. "We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes," observed the majority opinion of Justice Stephen Breyer. "Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution."

Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas maintained that the majority's decision "ignores compelling evidence that Texas' law imposes no unconstitutional burden." Thomas also objected that "today's decision perpetuates the Court's habit of applying different rules to different constitutional rights— especially the putative right to abortion."

Also writing in dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts, argued that the Supreme Court had no business hearing this dispute in the first place. "Determined to strike down two provisions of a new Texas abortion statute in all of their applications, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply in all other cases," Alito wrote.

The Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt is available here.

Purvi Patel Appeals 20-Year Feticide Sentence for Self-Induced Abortion

Tue, 24 May 2016 16:02:00 -0400

Feticide laws were originally enacted to punish crimes against pregnant women that also result in the death of the fetus inside her. Indiana is now using its feticide law to punish a woman for possibly self-inducing an abortion. Last year, the state sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for taking the abortion pill without a doctor's supervision—or at least that's how Patlel's supporters portray the situation. The complicated and controversial case came before the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday.   According to documents from Patel's trial, she became pregnant in 2013 and decided to have an abortion because she feared what her religious parents would think. But Patel was also worried that it was too late for her to be prescribed the abortion pill, which is only approved for use through the ninth week of pregnancy. Text messages she sent to a friend said she had ordered the drugs herself from a pharmacy in Hong Kong, although Patel's defense claimed at trial that she never took the drugs. Indeed, testing found no traces of the abortion drugs in Patel's system. But as Homicide Crime Scene Technician Tom Cameron testified at Patel's trial, there is no scientifically reliable way to test for those medications.  The situation came to the attention of police when Patel showed up to the St. Joseph hospital emergency room with excessive bleeding. When pressed, she claimed that she had miscarried, giving birth to a stillborn. Patel said she deposited the stillborn fetus in a dumpster behind the restaurant (owned by Patel's family) where she worked. Hospital staff reported this information to local police, who then found the fetus and arrested Patel. She was charged with both feticide and child neglect. Prosecutors said the charges were not contradictory, as Patel could have illegally attempted to terminate her pregnancy, given birth to a live child anyway, and then let it die. A jury agreed, finding her guilty on both accounts.  Appearing before the appeals court yesterday, Patel's lawyer, Lawrence Marshall, argued that "the evidence in this case [for a child neglect charge] was not there whatsoever. Not a single expert ever said—in any sort of declarative way—that yes, this infant would have survived had Ms. Patel done differently." As for the feticide charge, Marshall argued that Indiana's feticide statute was not intended to be applied to women for "unlawful abortion." The state, of course, claimed otherwise. It's not clear when the appeals court will issue its decision.  "If this case were only about a woman who clearly gave birth to a live baby and then killed her child, it would be clear cut," noted The New York Times' Emily Bazelon last year.   There is a line between pregnancy and birth, and once it is crossed, the state has just as much at stake in protecting the life of a newborn as it does in protecting the life of anyone else. But the evidence that Patel’s baby was born alive is sharply contested. The pathologist who testified for the defense, Shaku Teas, said the baby was stillborn. Teas told the court the fetus was at 23 or 24 weeks gestation and that its lungs weren’t developed enough to breathe. (Here’s more support for this position.) But the pathologist for the prosecution, Joseph Prahlow, testified that the fetus was further along than that — at 25 to 30 weeks gestation, which is past the point of viability — and was born alive. [...] Whatever happened to Patel and her baby at the point of delivery, it’s hard to imagine that either the prosecution or the judge at sentencing would have come down as hard on her if they weren’t sure she’d tried to induce her own illegal abortion. And this is where Patel’s case moves from a fight over birth to a fight over pregnancy. More than two-dozen self-described "h[...]

Enviros Shun While Pro-Life Conservatives Embrace Population Control Restrictionists. Go Figure.

Wed, 11 May 2016 13:50:00 -0400

(image) Politics makes strange bedfellows, they say, and on no issue do they get stranger than immigration. American restrictionism (understood as a movement that seeks perennially to restrict immigration as a matter of principle not temporarily for some prudential reason like national security) has historically stood on two pillars: Labor protectionism (with or without a dose of nativism) and population control. Both  have been the province of lefty outfits — the first of unions and the second of enviros. For example, in the 1970s, all the leading environmentalists — such as economist Garrett Hardin, Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson, biologist Paul Ehrlich (whose Population Bomb became an overnight sensation) — were also restrictionists. They feared that "mass migration," especially from third world countries with higher fertility rates, would lead to overpopulation and environmental catastrophe in America and the West.

But the strange thing is that lefties are increasingly repudiating both strains and becoming more pro-immigration. However, conservatives are embracing both strains and becoming more anti-immigration.

I note:

Indeed, the right is the sole link to mainstream respectability for three of America's most influential restrictionist groups — FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), CIS (Center for Immigration Studies), and NumbersUSA — all founded by John Tanton, an ophthalmologist who laments that Hitler gave eugenics a bad name…

While FAIR is perhaps the ickiest of the restrictionist trio, they're all quite bad. NumbersUSA president Roy Beck, who Tanton has blessed as his "heir apparent," blames population pressures due to "mass" immigration for practically every economic and environmental ill in America, real or imagined (but mostly imagined)…

And that brings us to the third major restriction group: the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which Tanton spun off when he found himself losing the "battle of ideas." CIS's express charge was to promote restrictionism on more acceptable intellectual grounds. This move paid off when the conservative National Review, a perennial immigration opponent, gave CIS executive director Mark Krikorian (whom I have debated) along with many of his colleagues and researchers — including Jason Richwine, whose dissertation recommending IQ tests for immigrants and musings at white nationalist websites forced him to resign from the Heritage Foundation — a regular blogging platform.

 If this is not strange enough, go here to read the whole thing for even more strangeness.

ACLU Sues Over Indiana Law Creating a Protected Class of Fetuses

Mon, 02 May 2016 18:00:00 -0400

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and is suing the state of Indiana over an abortion law that essentially creates a protected class of fetuses. The law, passed in March and set to take effect July 1, prohibits Indiana doctors from performing an abortion if they know a woman is seeking it based on the sex or race of the fetus, or because it has been diagnosed as potentially having Down Syndrome or "any other disability." The state contends that abortions of this sort amount to discrimination in violation of civil rights law.  Any doctor who breaks this ban may be disciplined by the state medical board, held civilly liable for "wrongful death," or be charged with a felony. Fetal-tissue transportation, collection, and research will also become felony crimes.  The measure— House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1337—includes a slew of other new regulations for abortion clinics and doctors, too, including a requirement that all aborted and miscarried fetuses must be cremated or buried and that "a person or facility having possession of a miscarried or aborted fetus [must ensure that it] is preserved until final disposition occurs." At present, fetal tissue and placenta resulting from abortions and miscarriages that happen before 20 weeks pregnancy "are treated like any other medical waste," according to Vox.  Opponents of the law worry the fetal cremation/burial regulation will turn all women who miscarry—something which occurs in about 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies as a conservative estimate—into criminal suspects, as well as place an unnecessary burden on them in a time of mourning. Under the new law, any woman who miscarries at home could be committing a crime by not burying or cremating the fetus or making arrangements for its burial or cremation. Yet any woman who miscarries and then does take the fetal remains to be buried or cremated risks state suspicion and investigation. Remember, Indiana is the same state that recently put a woman in prison for 20 years over what she claims was a miscarriage but the state classified an illegal abortion.  Additionally, HEA 1337 states that a) women seeking abortions must receive a mandatory ultrasound 18 hours before the procedure, and b) abortion doctors must not only have an agreement with a physician who has admitting privileges at a local hospital but renew this agreement annually, and submit proof of renewal to the state. Though billed as a step to ensure women's safety, such admitting agreements are wholly unnecessary, since a patient experiencing post-abortion complications can be treated at any hospital, regardless of whether that hospital has a preexisting relationship with their abortion doctor.  Indiana Gov. Mike Pence called the measure "comprehensive pro-life legislation that expands the information that expectant mothers received" and "also provides additional protections for the unborn." But the ACLU, which is joined in its lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana, asserts that the new law is unconstitutional. "Repeatedly the U.S. Supreme Court has said that a woman may get an abortion within the first trimester for whatever reasons she deems best, based on her circumstances,” ACLU Executive Director Jane Henegar has explained. "The ACLU stands firmly against discrimination in all forms, but that isn’t what this law is about," said Henegar.  [...]

Abortion Clinic Wins Battle Against Shady Florida Bureaucrats

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:00:00 -0400

(image) Contra the claims from Florida's state health agency, there's no evidence that a Gainesville women's clinic performed illegal second-trimester abortions, an administrative law judge has ruled. The Bread and Roses Women's Health Center, which is licensed to provide pregnancy testing, birth control, and first-trimester abortions, was accused by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) of performing five abortions on women who were more than 14 weeks pregnant, which the clinic is not licensed to do. But according to Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson, the state "presented no testimony or documentary evidence refuting the credible evidence presented by Bread & Roses" that AHCA was wrong.

Sonograms provided by the clinic "show on their face that the pregnancies for each of the five procedures at issue were first trimester pregnancies and within the scope of Bread & Roses' license," wrote Stevenson in a 25-page ruling.

The monetary stakes here for Bread and Roses weren't huge—if found guilty, the clinic would have faced a $2,500 fine. But even if the issue didn't come back to bite them later, you can bet the case would be used to fodder Florida Republicans' narrative that abortion clinics often skirt regulatory rules. There's also little room for doubt here that Florida's health agency—which lobbed similar administrative complaints against three Planned Parenthood clinics recently—has an agenda as well.

"Planned Parenthood representatives have maintained that abortions were performed during the first trimester," according to AP, "and that regulators tried to change the definition [of first trimester] to justify an investigation ordered by Gov. Rick Scott."

In this instance, AHCA  brought the complaint against Bread and Roses based on the flimsiest of pretenses: five abortion-patient files that did not include the start dates of the women's last periods. However, these files did contain ultrasound info indicating how far along the women were, a method of documentation that had suited AHCA just fine for the previous 10 years, according to clinic director Kristin Davy.

"AHCA presented no evidence to counter Ms. Davy's credible testimony that Bread & Roses had been submitting its [monthly summary] reports in the same manner for the previous 10 years without incident," wrote Stevenson in his decision. Nor could the agency explain "why it suddenly believed that Bread & Roses' [monthly summary] reports showed that the clinic was performing second-trimester abortions."

The judge recommended that the agency dismiss its complaint against Bread and Roses.

AHCA already dismissed its complaints against the Planned Parenthood clinics, in March, saying they were unnecessary now that a new state law a) prohibited state money from going to Planned Parenthood, and b) changed the definitions of pregnancy trimesters. "It was not entirely clear why regulators considered the previous action to fine the clinics moot—the new law does not take effect until July 1 and would not have applied to last year’s complaints," reports AP.

Trump Wants Changes to Republican Party's Abortion Platform

Thu, 21 Apr 2016 11:48:00 -0400

(image) On the Today Show Thursday morning, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump expressed support for changes to the GOP platform on abortion. As it stands, the Republican Party holds that "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed" and supports legislation "to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children" with no exceptions. Trump told Today Show hosts, however, that he would change the platform to allow exceptions in cases of rape and incest or instances where a pregnant woman's life is at risk. 

Asked whether he supported these exceptions and changing the official Republican platform to include them, Trump said "absolutely, for the three exceptions, I would." 

Pressed whether he would also support an exception based on non-life-threatening risks to a mother's health, though, Trump said no. "I would leave it for the life of the mother," he said, "but I would absolutely have the three exceptions." 

Asked about the big culture-war issue of the moment, public restroom access for trans individuals, Trump said he thinks North Carolina should have left things alone. "North Carolina did something that was very strong, and they're paying a big price," said Trump. But if it was up to him, he would "leave [bathroom access] the way it is! There have been very few problems. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble."  

Matt Lauer followed up by asking Trump if he would be OK with Caitlyn Jenner coming to Trump Tower and using "any bathroom shes chooses?" Trump said "that is correct." 

Young Women Care As Much About Gun Rights As They Do About Abortion

Thu, 14 Apr 2016 14:40:00 -0400

That young women dig Bernie Sanders and tend to lean left isn't too surprising. But would you have guessed that gun rights rank as high as abortion access and "equal pay" among their concerns? Or that young conservative women are almost as worried about economic inequality as are their liberal counterparts? These findings and more—both expected and idiosyncratic—come courtesy of a new national poll of millennial women from ABC News and Refinery 29.  When asked about political affiliation, the most popular label among these 18- to 35-year-olds was "Independent," claimed by some 40 percent of respondents. Thirty-eight percent called themselves Democrats and just 16 percent identified as Republican. Party ties aside, 38 percent described themselves as "liberal," 30 percent as "moderate," and 26 percent as "conservative." Compared to older women, millennial ladies who identify as "conservative" are 12 points less likely to call themselves Republican.  Top Issues for Millennial Women The septuagenarian socialist from Vermont led young women's presidential picks, with a little more than a third of respondents naming Sanders as their top candidate. Twenty-five percent named Hillary Clinton as their top choice for the Oval Office. The Republican candidates combined earned a mere 21 percent of the potential vote, while 18 percent of those surveyed said they had no preference.  Support for Sanders skewed young—nearly half of 18- to 21-year-olds preferred him, compared to just 27 percent of the oldest millennial women. Among respondents who strongly identified as feminists, Sanders was also the preferred candidate by a wide margin: 56 percent, compared to 25 percent for Clinton and 9 percent for GOP candidates. Republicans were the preferred choice of 27 percent of respondents who said they were not feminists, while 24 percent of this group favored Clinton and 24 percent favored Sanders. Less than half of all the women surveyed said they identify as a feminist, while 53 percent said they are not feminist and two percent had no opinion. Pollsters followed up with those who didn't identify as feminist by asking if it's due to disagreement with "the goals of feminism" or "because you dislike the word feminist but agree with the goals?" Almost half (49 percent) said they merely disliked the word, while around a third disagreed with feminist goals.  Asked to say which of seven issues they found most important, millennial women were most likely to be concerned about "economic inequality" and student loan debt. The next biggest issues, with 11 percent each, were "protecting gun rights," "equal pay for women," and "preserving access to abortion." Eight percent listed "lowering taxes" as their top concern and 4 percent chose "strengthening the military."  Conservative women were almost as likely as liberals, and more likely than those who described themselves as moderate, to see economic inequality as a top concern. They were less concerned about student loans (12 percent, versus 23 percent of liberals and 25 percent of moderates) but more concerned about gun rights (19 percent, versus nine percent of moderates and five percent of liberals).  For whites, inequality slightly outpaced student loans as a concern but for black women, student-loan debt dominated, with almost a third of black respondents saying it was their top issue. Black women were much less likely than white or Hispanic women to list abortion access as a top concern (two percent, versus 15 and seven percent, respectively), while blacks and Hispanics were both more likely to be concerned with women's pay.  Overall, 49 percent of respondents said candidates are discussing issues that are important to the[...]

Indiana Is Latest State to Pass Restrictive Abortion Bill Claiming Safety

Sat, 09 Apr 2016 10:30:00 -0400

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The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filled suit against the state of Indiana over the recently passed law that bans abortions sought for genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome.

Republican Governor Mike Pence's office believes the bill works as a safety measure and "enhances protection for the unborn."

But denying a woman's access to an abortion, the lawsuit counters, counts as an "undue burden" against her fundamental rights.

Indiana is the latest state to have conservatives legislators pass restrictive abortion laws under the pretense of safety. Former Reason TV producer Amanda Winkler covered a similar situation in Virginia when the Board of Health approved facilities regulations to close abortion clinics in the state.

Trump and Clinton Trip on Abortion Taboos

Wed, 06 Apr 2016 00:01:00 -0400

When Donald Trump said women who obtain illegal abortions should face "some form of punishment," it was a rookie mistake. New to the anti-abortion movement, the Republican presidential front-runner did not realize he was supposed to view women who terminate their pregnancies as victims rather than perpetrators. By contrast, when Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee and a longtime champion of abortion rights, called a fetus an "unborn person," she really should have known better. Her stumble, like Trump's, exposed a taboo that facilitates blinkered thinking about abortion. Trump, who used to describe himself as "pro-choice," says he changed his mind over the years as a result of "stories" from friends and acquaintances. Yet there seems to be no public record of this conversion prior to a speech that Trump gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2011, when he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination. Even if we assume that Trump's switch from pro-choice to pro-life was sincere as well as politically convenient, it's clear he did not familiarize himself with the movement he was joining. Had he done so, he would have anticipated the barrage of criticism he provoked from his ostensible allies by saying, during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews last week, that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who defy the abortion ban he favors. "The National Right to Life Committee unequivocally opposes the killing of innocent unborn children and works unceasingly to have them protected in law," the group's president, Carol Tobias, said in response to Trump's comments. "Unborn children and their mothers are victims in an abortion. In adopting statutes prohibiting the performance of abortions, National Right to Life has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed. Rather, penalties should be imposed against any abortionist who would take the life of an unborn child in defiance of statutes prohibiting abortions." Trump immediately and uncharacteristically fell in line, parroting that position in a statement issued the same evening. But his confusion is understandable: If abortion is murder, why should women who hire professional killers to do away with their "innocent unborn children" get a pass? Perhaps the rationale for exempting women who obtain abortions from criminal liability is that they do not understand the nature of their actions. But the same excuse applies to abortionists, since they generally do not think of their work as baby killing. What is the proper legal response when the pregnant woman and the abortionist are the same person? If a woman takes a drug that induces a miscarriage, does she deserve sympathy or condemnation? It is understandable that pro-life activists do not want to appear callous by holding women who obtain abortions responsible for their actions. But they can avoid that unpopular position only by denying the moral agency of pregnant women, as if the same hormones that cause morning sickness erase the ability to choose between good and evil. If the pro-life movement does not want us to think about what is going on inside a pregnant woman's brain, the pro-choice movement does not want us to think about what is going on inside her uterus. Here is where Clinton erred on Sunday, when she declared, during an appearance on Meet the Press, that "the unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights." That statement is legally nonsensical, since a "person" has constitutional rights by definition. In fact, the abortion debate largely comes down to the question of whether and when a [...]