Roundup: Eight States, Fifteen Bills, One Big Pea

Robin Marty

Much like a marathon, this roundup covers 20% of the states in the country, then rewards you with a giant pea suit.  Ok, not so much like a marathon...

Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan.  So many states with so many stories this week.  I’ll try to round them all up for you here in case you missed any of them. 

Then, I will amuse you with giant vegetables.  You have been warned…

In Colorado, as we reported yesterday, the latest “Personhood Amendment” push is woefully behind. In order to be successful, they need to come up with 1000 valid signatures a day for the next 14 days.

Utah, reeling from the publicity they received over their “miscarriage ban,” is now pulling the bill for tweaking.  They will eliminate the “reckless act” portion that literally made any woman who suffered a miscarriage a potential suspect. 

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Of course, if Utah is overstepping its bounds by legislating pregnancy, Florida is only a few steps behind with its proposed bill to outlaw all abortions in the state except when a mother’s life is in danger.   And mother’s physical health is the only exemption for the new Nebraska bill that bans all abortions after 20 weeks, which had a public hearing this week as well.

Oklahoma has been nearly impossible to keep up with this week, as nearly every day a new anti-choice bill goes through committee, House or Senate, as the legislature attempts to break up their “unconstitutional” multi-topic bills into single topic, bite-size versions.  An ultrasound bill, and the data reporting act have both passed the house, and more came through committee and are waiting to be seen.  As Amie asked, how much money is the state willing to spend on all of these reruns and court challenges?

Missouri anti-choice advocates and doing a major push to try and get more funding for the “Abortion Alternatives Act.”  I wonder if any lawmakers will feel the need to ask them if they’ve ever had an abortion.

Meanwhile, two commissioners in Kalamazoo, Michigan are trying to get abortion coverage stripped from county employees.  One attempted this before in 2003.  He admits they expect little in savings by the move, as only four procedures had been covered since 2003.  Two of those four procedures were actually for miscarriages. Needless to say, that makes me feel a little like Cassandra.

Finally, Arizona senate passed three bills this week, one to ban taxpayer abortions, one regarding health risks from donating eggs, and one to regulate use of embryos, which the bill’s sponsor says are “human beings, not tissues.”  The bills barely passed the senate and even were criticized by other Republicans.

Sen. Carolyn Allen, a lawmaker from Scottsdale, was the only Republican who voted against all three bills. She said lawmakers should be working on the budget instead of measures that restrict the reproductive rights of women.

“The calendar today and some that are going to come appears to me to be almost anti-female,” she said.

Mini Roundup – So you made it through all of that doom and gloom and need some cheering up? Welcome to the BEST REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH HEADLINE EVER!!!!

March 4, 2010

Oh, Baby: More Hospitals Asking for Payment Before Childbirth – ParentDish

Without Abortion Changes, Stupak Will Defeat Health Care: ‘We’re Prepared to … – ABC News

House Democrats in dangerous dilemma over abortion language – Kansas City Star

Committee Kills Anti-abortion Bills – WJLA

Wimmer plans fix to controversial abortion bill -Salt Lake Tribune

Abortion and the health care bills: Let’s welcome the debate – Christian Science Monitor

Polish activists use Hitler poster to warn against abortion – Ha’aretz

Abortion laws kill Kenyan schoolgirls – The Guardian

Lawmakers wrestle with pro-life bills – Tulsa Beacon

Contraception, Marketing, and Mommy Bloggers – CurrentMom

Philippines HIV cases spike to record in January – Reuters

It’s official – giant pea outfits are not an effective form of contraception – 3am.co.uk

‘I have a phobia of pregnancy’ – The Guardian

Family planning ‘is central to elections in the Philippines’ – VSO International

Millions to Prevent HIV and AIDS, Reduce Stigma – Media For Freedom

Senators Want End to Ban on Gay Blood Donors – Politics Daily

March 5, 2010

Garrett OB/GYN bills shot down by legislature – Cumberland Times-News

Sexually active women need free contraceptives – Dr Samba – Ghana News

Govt must put in check maternal,infant deaths – The Citizen Daily

DAs expand teen pregnancy campaign – The Tennessean

Reproductive justice for all – The Guardian

HIV/AIDS crisis affects growing number of South Carolinians – WACH

HIP HOP CD ON HIV/AIDS LAUNCHED – The Voice Online

Had Sex? Study Finds It Depends Who You Ask – Huffington Post

UN Report: HIV/Aids Has Become The Major Cause Of Death Among Women – TopNews

CDC’s new tool in HIV prevention: social media and Jamie Foxx – Baltimore Sun

Choices for teens over pregnancy – Swindon Advertiser

Reproductive justice for all – The Guardian

Bali safe from `baby boom’ – Jakarta Post

Mullahs help promote birth control in Afghanistan – USA Today

Hillary Clinton Tells Brazilians to Consider Legalizing Abortion – Lifesite

Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules Abortion Law Unconstitutional – Ms. Magazine

Missouri Budget Committee to Determine Fate of Abortion Alternatives Funding – LifeNews.com

Christine M. Flowers: Not your mother’s back alley – Philadelphia Daily News

Groups protest S.Korea crackdown on abortion – Bangkok Post

Abortion and the health care bills: Let’s welcome the debate – Christian Science Monitor

Abortion And the Health Bill – Wall Street Journal

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

Analysis Law and Policy

Justice Kennedy’s Silence Speaks Volumes About His Apparent Feelings on Women’s Autonomy

Imani Gandy

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

Last week’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was remarkable not just for what it did say—that two provisions in Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion law were unconstitutional—but for what it didn’t say, and who didn’t say it.

In the lead-up to the decision, many court watchers were deeply concerned that Justice Anthony Kennedy would side with the conservative wing of the court, and that his word about targeted restrictions of abortion providers would signal the death knell of reproductive rights. Although Kennedy came down on the winning side, his notable silence on the “dignity” of those affected by the law still speaks volumes about his apparent feelings on women’s autonomy. That’s because Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity, and where along the fault line of that human dignity various rights fall, has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

His opinion on marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, along with his prior opinions striking down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, assured us that he recognizes the fundamental human rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons.

On the other hand, as my colleague Jessica Mason Pieklo noted, his concern in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action about the dignity of the state, specifically the ballot initiative process, assured us that he is willing to sweep aside the dignity of those affected by Michigan’s affirmative action ban in favor of the “‘dignity’ of a ballot process steeped in racism.”

Meanwhile, in his majority opinion in June’s Fisher v. University of Texas, Kennedy upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, noting that it remained a challenge to this country’s education system “to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

It is apparent that where Kennedy is concerned, dignity is the alpha and the omega. But when it came to one of the most important reproductive rights cases in decades, he was silent.

This is not entirely surprising: For Kennedy, the dignity granted to pregnant women, as evidenced by his opinions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, has been steeped in gender-normative claptrap about abortion being a unique choice that has grave consequences for women, abortion providers’ souls, and the dignity of the fetus. And in Whole Woman’s Health, when Kennedy was given another chance to demonstrate to us that he does recognize the dignity of women as women, he froze.

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He didn’t write the majority opinion. He didn’t write a concurring opinion. He permitted Justice Stephen Breyer to base the most important articulation of abortion rights in decades on data. There was not so much as a callback to Kennedy’s flowery articulation of dignity in Casey, where he wrote that “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education” are matters “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” (While Casey was a plurality opinion, various Court historians have pointed out that Kennedy himself wrote the above-quoted language.)

Of course, that dignity outlined in Casey is grounded in gender paternalism: Abortion, Kennedy continued, “is an act fraught with consequences for others: for the woman who must live with the implications of her decision; for the persons who perform and assist in the procedures for the spouse, family, and society which must confront the knowledge that these procedures exist, procedures some deem nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life; and, depending on one’s beliefs, for the life or potential life that is aborted.” Later, in Gonzales, Kennedy said that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban “expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” with nothing about the dignity of the women affected by the ban.

And this time around, Kennedy’s silence in Whole Woman’s Health may have had to do with the facts of the case: Texas claimed that the provisions advanced public health and safety, and Whole Woman’s Health’s attorneys set about proving that claim to be false. Whole Woman’s Health was the sort of data-driven decision that did not strictly need excessive language about personal dignity and autonomy. As Breyer wrote, it was a simple matter of Texas advancing a reason for passing the restrictions without offering any proof: “We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law, the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.”

In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s two-page concurrence, she succinctly put it, “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”

“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ cannot survive judicial inspection,” she continued, hammering the point home.

So by silently signing on to the majority opinion, Kennedy may simply have been expressing that he wasn’t going to fall for the State of Texas’ efforts to undermine Casey’s undue burden standard through a mixture of half-truths about advancing public health and weak evidence supporting that claim.

Still, Kennedy had a perfect opportunity to complete the circle on his dignity jurisprudence and take it to its logical conclusion: that women, like everyone else, are individuals worthy of their own autonomy and rights. But he didn’t—whether due to his Catholic faith, a deep aversion to abortion in general, or because, as David S. Cohen aptly put it, “[i]n Justice Kennedy’s gendered world, a woman needs … state protection because a true mother—an ideal mother—would not kill her child.”

As I wrote last year in the wake of Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell, “according to [Kennedy’s] perverse simulacrum of dignity, abortion rights usurp the dignity of motherhood (which is the only dignity that matters when it comes to women) insofar as it prevents women from fulfilling their rightful roles as mothers and caregivers. Women have an innate need to nurture, so the argument goes, and abortion undermines that right.”

This version of dignity fits neatly into Kennedy’s “gendered world.” But falls short when compared to jurists internationally,  who have pointed out that dignity plays a central role in reproductive rights jurisprudence.

In Casey itself, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens—who, perhaps not coincidentally, attended the announcement of the Whole Woman’s Health decision at the Supreme Court—wrote that whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a “matter of conscience,” and that “[t]he authority to make such traumatic and yet empowering decisions is an element of basic human dignity.”

And in a 1988 landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Bertha Wilson indicated in her concurring opinion that “respect for human dignity” was key to the discussion of access to abortion because “the right to make fundamental personal decision without interference from the state” was central to human dignity and any reading of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982, which is essentially Canada’s Bill of Rights.

The case was R. v. Morgentaler, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found that a provision in the criminal code that required abortions to be performed only at an accredited hospital with the proper certification of approval from the hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee violated the Canadian Constitution. (Therapeutic abortion committees were almost always comprised of men who would decide whether an abortion fit within the exception to the criminal offense of performing an abortion.)

In other countries, too, “human dignity” has been a key component in discussion about abortion rights. The German Federal Constitutional Court explicitly recognized that access to abortion was required by “the human dignity of the pregnant woman, her… right to life and physical integrity, and her right of personality.” The Supreme Court of Brazil relied on the notion of human dignity to explain that requiring a person to carry an anencephalic fetus to term caused “violence to human dignity.” The Colombian Constitutional Court relied upon concerns about human dignity to strike down abortion prohibition in instances where the pregnancy is the result of rape, involves a nonviable fetus, or a threat to the woman’s life or health.

Certainly, abortion rights are still severely restricted in some of the above-mentioned countries, and elsewhere throughout the world. Nevertheless, there is strong national and international precedent for locating abortion rights in the square of human dignity.

And where else would they be located? If dignity is all about permitting people to make decisions of fundamental personal importance, and it turns out, as it did with Texas, that politicians have thrown “women’s health and safety” smoke pellets to obscure the true purpose of laws like HB 2—to ban abortion entirely—where’s the dignity in that?

Perhaps I’m being too grumpy. Perhaps I should just take the win—and it is an important win that will shape abortion rights for a generation—and shut my trap. But I want more from Kennedy. I want him to demonstrate that he’s not a hopelessly patriarchal figure who has icky feelings when it comes to abortion. I want him to recognize that some women have abortions and it’s not the worst decision they’ve ever made or the worst thing that ever happened to him. I want him to recognize that women are people who deserve dignity irrespective of their choices regarding whether and when to become a mother. And, ultimately, I want him to write about a woman’s right to choose using the same flowery language that he uses to discuss LGBTQ rights and the dignity of LGBTQ people.  He could have done so here.

Forcing the closure of clinics based on empty promises of advancing public health is an affront to the basic dignity of women. Not only do such lies—and they are lies, as evidenced by the myriad anti-choice Texan politicians who have come right out and said that passing HB 2 was about closing clinics and making abortion inaccessible—operate to deprive women of the dignity to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, they also presume that the American public is too stupid to truly grasp what’s going on.

And that is quintessentially undignified.