What Does “Abortion Reduction” Really Mean?

Kathleen Reeves

A disturbing implication of “abortion reduction” is that our society should more closely monitor women who want abortions and the reasons they want abortions.

Anna North, on Jezebel, takes a look at the problems with “abortion reduction” as portrayed through an O’Reilly lens. She surveys some of the most offensive moments of Friday’s The O’Reilly Factor, on which Salon Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh appeared.

Abortion reduction can mean different things, as North points out. It can mean reducing the need for abortion, as in reducing unintended pregnancies. But some people use the phrase to mean that we should more closely monitor women who want abortions and the reasons they want abortions.

For example, O’Reilly alleged on the show that Dr. Tiller performed late-term abortions frivolously:

He maintained that "Tiller was aborting late-term fetuses for casual reasons." He then called in Dr. Paul McHugh, head of the Psychiatric School at Johns Hopkins University …who made some vague claims about Tiller offering abortions so that women could "go to concerts" or "take part in sports."

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These claims are ludicrous, but they shed light on one of the primary tactics of the anti-abortion movement, which is to call into question the judgment of pregnant women. The clear implication is that women who want abortions are selfish, short-sighted, or stupid, and that by restricting abortion, we’re saving not only fetuses—we’re also saving these women from themselves.

The phrase “abortion reduction” makes me uncomfortable because it implies that we have perspective to offer women considering abortion. This is the abortion protestor (or “counselor”) outside the clinic door. The least aggressive of these might say something like, “Have you considered other options?” but even this, spoken politely, is offensive. Why would a stranger have considered options for my fetus that I haven’t? Can he/she be serious?

This, the necessity of deferring to one woman’s judgment, is what Anna North articulates so well:

If we truly want to preserve a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, we need to accept that sometimes women will abort for reasons we might not agree with. Really, being pro-choice doesn’t mean thinking every abortion is a good idea. It means realizing that the only person who should truly have the right to determine whether it’s a good idea is the mother, and protecting her rights means allowing her to make decisions we might not necessarily support.

This is the essence of abortion rights. Roe v. Wade came out of the knowledge that we can’t allow there to be gatekeepers to abortion, be they state legislators or parents or the public. These gatekeepers will fail, and O’Reilly’s (continued) rant about late-term abortions shows us why. We cannot understand, in every circumstance, a woman’s experience, and we cannot be the ones to decide which abortions are justifiable.

News Abortion

Iowa GOP Legislator: Ending Legal Abortion ‘Impossible’ Without ‘Personhood’ Laws

Teddy Wilson

GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.

State Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) told IowaWatch that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt proves that the anti-choice movement’s attack on abortion rights is not working.

“The Supreme Court decision reinforced that incrementally ending abortion is impossible,” Schultz said. “You either have it or you don’t.”

So-called personhood laws seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as people, and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

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GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.

Personhood bills were introduced this year by Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Rhode Island.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”

Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.

SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.

Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.

SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.

“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told IowaWatch that he could not support Schultz’s proposal.

“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”

Branstad signed many of the state’s laws restricting abortion access that came up during the latter part of his first term as governor.

News Abortion

Blackburn Abortion Investigation Set for Congressional Windfall

Christine Grimaldi

All told, the investigation is well on its way to totaling $790,000, using nearly 80 percent of the House’s available supplemental funding.

Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating questionable reproductive health-care allegations have sought an additional $490,000 in funding—even as Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) publicly indicated that their activities may halt by the end of the year.

Congressional documents reveal that panel Republicans requested the money from the Committee on House Administration, which sets aside $500,000 per session of Congress to supplement operating budgets.

​A congressional aide told ​ Rewire that the request has been approved.​

The panel last year received $300,000, which followed the House’s informal two-thirds/one-third funding split between the majority and minority parties, from the Administration Committee’s coffers. All told, the investigation is well on its way to totaling $790,000, using nearly 80 percent of the House’s available supplemental funding.

House rules stipulate that standing subcommittees draw funding from the budget of the full committee with jurisdiction and pursue additional means as needs arise. The funding streams are murkier in the case of the select panel, a temporary entity under the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It’s unclear how much money, if any, Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) has directed from his budget to the select panel.

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Upton’s spokespeople did not respond to questions from Rewire about full committee financial support for the ad hoc panel by publication time.

Administration Committee Democrats protested the original funding request and raised similar objections again this time, to no avail. The current action marks the second time the committee “decided without a public hearing or a proper vote to pay for the political attack on Planned Parenthood,” they said in a statement accompanying a trove of appeals to their Republican counterparts on the committee to stop the transfer.

Blackburn’s select panel spokesperson in an email to Rewire deferred all funding questions to the Administration Committee, including what Republicans intend to do with their share and whether their request marks an expansion of the investigation despite the limited number of days that Congress will be in session for the remainder of the year.

In a statement shared via panel spokesperson, Blackburn cited allegations she often makes about abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies trafficking in “baby body parts.” She also repeated a similar claim against the University of New Mexico, the subject of her recent criminal referral to the state’s attorney general.

“These disturbing findings are exactly why this investigation is warranted and we will continue to follow the facts in order to complete our report to Congress by the end of the year,” she said.

Blackburn’s reference to the end of the year signals that there’s an end in sight. The resolution creating the panel only specifies that activities will come to an end 30 days after filing a final report. An Upton spokesperson previously referenced the panel’s “one-year term” when Rewire reported on past fetal tissue attacks in Congress.

In any event, Blackburn must act before the resolution expires with the close of the 114th Congress in 2016. The House would have to vote next year, in the 115th Congress, to extend the current investigation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the select panel’s ranking member, condemned the latest funding request and the overall investigation.

“This has not been—nor will it ever be—a fact-based investigation,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “Instead the Panel is being run as a taxpayer-funded arm of anti-abortion groups, in pursuit of a partisan, anti-science, and anti-health care agenda. Enough is enough.”