Roundup: Anti-Choice Legislation in the States

Emily Douglas

Anti-choice legislation in the states; Dawn Johnsen up for confirmation today; fistula an indicator of poor health for women, children; doesn't like the facts on family planning.

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Anti-Choice Legislation in the States
Anti-choice legislation is being introduced left, right, and center in states around the nation.
The Tennessee House is considering two bills that would give the state "latitude to pass abortion legislation that falls within guidelines determined by the U.S. Supreme Court," reports the Tennessean
The Republican version does not include exceptions for rape, incest, or
health of the mother; the Democratic version does.  In 2000, the
Tennessee state Supreme Court found that the right to privacy protects
the right to legal abortion, so this constitutional amendment would
reverse that decision.

In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Beebe recently signed into law a so-called
"partial birth abortion ban," which bans unspecified and medically
un-defined abortion procedures, reported.

Missouri’s Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would make it illegal for a woman to be coerced into having an abortion.  Meanwhile, a Utah Senate bill would require physicians to tell women that their fetuses will feel pain during an abortion.  State senators in Montana endorsed a parental notification meausure.
In South Carolina, a 24-hour mandatory waiting period after an ultrasound has just passed the House, WISTV reports.  And, of course, in North Dakota, the Senate soon takes up the egg-as-person bill to define life as beginning at conception.

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Dawn Johnsen Up for Confirmation Today
Dawn Johnsen, former legal director for NARAL Pro-Choice America and
outspoken critic of the Justice Department under President Bush, is up
for confirmation as the Assistant Attorney General in the Office of
Legal Affairs.  The National Women’s Law Center is urging her
confirmation, writing,

Professor Johnsen’s tenure at [the Office of Legal Affairs during the Clinton administration] gave her a profound
understanding of the unique responsibility of that office to provide
thoughtful and objective legal advice, in addition to a practical
understanding of how the office operates. As a widely respected
professor of constitutional law, she has spent the past ten years
grappling with complex legal issues. Her scholarship and legal
commentary demonstrate not only her outstanding legal abilities, but
also a commitment to the rule of law, to transparency, and to open
dialogue, as well as an understanding of the impact legal policies have
on people’s lives. 

But doesn’t like
Johnsen’s argument that laws restricting access to abortion create a situation in which pregnant women are in "involuntary servitude" to the state (LifeNews says she calls pregnancy slavery). The site goes on to make fun of Johsen’s commitment to "economic justice," quoting National Review writer Andrew McCarthy:

attraction for Obama is obvious. The principal target of her Webster
brief was the settled principle that the Constitution’s recognition
of various fundamental rights (and the judicial invention of such
‘rights’ as abortion) does not confer an entitlement to governmental
aid to exercise those rights," he explains. "For Johnsen,
this is anathema, the denial of ‘economic justice’ and thus of equal

Fistula an Indicator of Poor Health for Women, Children
The New York Times goes to Tanzania to feature relief efforts targeted at women suffering from fistula.  The Times reports that "prevention lags far behind treatment:"

Fistulas are a scourge of the poor, affecting two million women and girls, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia – those who cannot get a Caesarean section
or other medical help in time. Long neglected, fistulas have gained
increasing attention in recent years, and nonprofit groups, hospitals and governments have created programs, like the one in Dodoma, to provide the surgery.

Ideally, fistulas should be prevented, but prevention – which requires education, more hospitals, doctors and midwives,
and better transportation – lags far behind treatment. Worldwide, there
are still 100,000 new cases a year, and most experts think it will take
decades to eliminate fistulas in Africa, even though they were wiped
out in developed countries a century ago. Their continuing presence is
a sign that medical care for pregnant women is desperately inadequate. Doesn’t Like the Facts on Family Planning, Looks for Others
Mainstream news outlets looked at the data in the Guttmacher
Institute’s recent report on family planning — the claim that family
planning programs prevent
nearly 2 million unintended pregnancies and more than 800,000 abortions
in the U.S. annually — and recognized that as fact. doesn’t agree, though, so they went abroad in search of facts they like better:

the report doesn’t appear to square with the facts in places where the
number of abortions have been compiled following extensive promotion of
family planning. Last year, officials in Sweden reported that the number of abortions increased
17 percent in Sweden from 2000 to 2007 despite sales of the morning
after pill increasing during the same time period."  Not only are they
looking for facts in another country, they’re comparing apples to
oranges — emergency contraception is an significant component of family
planning, but it’s not the same as regular use of hormonal birth
control or condoms. 

Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care for Women Losing Health Insurance

On US News & World Report,
Deborah Kotz says it best: "Lost your health insurance? Consider
Planned Parenthood clinics."  But Kotz makes clear the many hurdles to
acquiring care:

Can anyone walk into a Planned Parenthood clinic and get free services?

"No, it doesn’t work that way," explains Gold. "To get free care in
most states, you must qualify for Medicaid." My jaw drops when she
tells me that in order to receive Medicaid coverage, states require
your income to be well below the poverty line of $18,310 for a family
of three. In some states, the cutoff is $11,000 in annual income; in
Arkansas, it’s $3,113. On the other hand, Arkansas and 20 other states
have implemented Medicaid waivers for pregnancy care and family
planning services, which has raised the qualifying income level
typically to about $37,000 for a family of three or about $21,000 for a
single woman.

Still, that excludes most unemployed women from coverage if they’re
receiving unemployment benefits or have an employed spouse. The folks I
spoke with at Planned Parenthood clinics tell me that they work with
every patient to provide affordable care.

Ross Douthat on Will Saletan on Abortion and Contraception

I like linking to Ross Douthat even less than I like linking to Will Saletan (what is it
with men who make their livings opining about the morality of women
seeking legal medical care?) but I’d like to debunk this statement. 
Douthat doesn’t like that Saletan blames the religious right for
opposition to birth control.  He writes,

[Saletan’s argument that anyone who opposes legal abortion should get behind contraception] makes it sound like the long shadow of Humanae Vitae and the malign influence of the Quiverfull movement are a big part of America’s abortion problem. But if religious-conservative objections to contraceptive use were actually
a big part of the cultural background to our abortion and
out-of-wedlock birth rate, you’d expect to see some actual evidence of
it. For one thing, you’d expect evidence that the Catholic Church’s
position on birth control has a significant impact on American Catholic
sexual behavior, let alone on sexual behavior in the society at large.
But the vast majority of Catholics are already on board with Saletan’s
premises. Around 80 percent think the Church should change its teaching on contraception. 88 percent of Catholic doctors prescribe it. As many as 95 percent of married Catholics use it. And I’m pretty sure that the 5-10 percent of Catholics who do obey the Church’s teaching aren’t having all that many abortions.

Sure, individual Catholics in the pews think the Church should change its position on birth control, and no one, least of all Catholics, may listen to what the Church has to say about it.  But unfortunately, they have very little influence over the Church hierarchy, who officially oppose all kinds of contraception other than "natural family planning" and who just last month suggested that hormonal birth control led to environmental degradation.  Catholics may behave differently, but the political power is behind the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and they don’t support access to family planning no matter what their constituents believe and how they behave.

Other News to Note
Feb 24: One News Now: Abortion not necessary to treat breast cancer aggressively

Feb 24: PoliTex: Anti-abortion activists descend on Austin 

Feb 24: Nadya Suleman: A Case Study in Reproductive Rights

Feb 22: State Journal register: Abortion opponents target Planned Parenthood funding

Feb 24: Relief Web: UNFPA provides family planning counselling for mothers

Feb 24: Cherry Creek News: 11,900 Abortions Prevented in CO by Publicly Funded Family Planning Services

Feb 24: Life Site News: Notre Dame Ethics Prof Reveals Groundbreaking Pro-Life Academic Program in the Works

Feb 24: Life News: Indiana Democrats Resist Ending Tax-Funding of Planned Parenthood Abortion Biz

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