Roundup: On Waivers, Prenatal Care, Personhood and Slavery

Robin Marty

Stupak's stance could deny prenatal care for his own suffering district, the rhetoric of abortion waivers and slavery, and other stories.

Today, it’s follow up time on some of the stories and themes we’ve been following this year across the country.

Remember when Wake County in North Carolina decided it wanted to do away with abortion coverage in its employee insurance plans?  They may get their coverage back now, or at least have a chance to discuss it rather than have it rammed through by one commissioner.

Commissioner Stan Norwalk doesn’t think Cooke should have moved unilaterally. He said Sunday that the board should have voted on whether to drop the coverage.

“I don’t want to be bullied into doing something that we wouldn’t have otherwise done,” Norwalk said.

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The Democrat also said fewer than 20 women have had county-funded abortions in the last five years.

“By in large, tax dollars aren’t being used to pay for abortions,” Norwalk said.

In light of the anti-choice claim that women who need abortions can just get a seperate policy to cover that procedure, the Washington Post takes a look at states that provide “abortion riders” for people who have insurance plans that don’t cover abortion.  Surprise!  No one ever purchases them. 

Amid a high-stakes debate over abortion that could determine the fate of President Obama‘s health-care initiative, North Dakota’s law offers a test because it is much like the language favored by antiabortion lawmakers on Capitol Hill, notably Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

“There’s not a lot to tell. We have no member who elected to have abortion riders,” said Denise Kolpack, vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, which covers about 80 percent of the North Dakota market. “We would be legally bound to provide an offering, but we have no groups that have requested it.”

Similar policies are in place in Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho and Oklahoma.

“It is rare that we hear in the market that an employer would request a rider for this coverage,” said Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield spokesman Tony Felts, whose territory includes Kentucky.

In the five states where abortion coverage is prohibited except with a rider, it is unclear how customers who purchase group insurance, typically for their employees, learn about the abortion coverage option.

“I’m not sure if an employer would know that or not,” Felts said of customers in Kentucky, when asked whether Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield advertises its policies. He said that if a customer requested abortion coverage, the company would offer it “in compliance” with state law.

Blue Cross of Idaho spokesman Stewart Johnson said, “I don’t know that we would mention it. They would probably ask about it.” He said the company does not track how often a group purchases abortion insurance.

A look at Congressman Bart Stupak’s home district in Michigan reveals that there isn’t even an abortion provider there, and that his overreaching amendment would negatively affect what little prenatal care the uninsured in his district can receive.

“Right now abortion is already restricted,” said Julie McKeiver, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Western and Northern Michigan. “[Stupak’s amendment] would take away any reasonable expectation that they would get coverage of services.”

The regional Planned Parenthood organization has been forced by budget cuts to close clinics and reduce hours but maintains clinics that do not perform abortions in Petoskey and Marquette. Women who live in northern lower Michigan or the U.P. often must travel hundreds of miles to downstate abortion providers or cross into Wisconsin or Minnesota for services.

Unfortunately, abortion is not the only medical service not available to women in Stupak’s district without having to travel a long distance. It may be particularly ironic that if Stupak’s abortion concerns end up killing the health care reform bill, pregnant women in his district may lose access to the pre- and post-natal care that is crucial to the health of their babies. Increasing numbers of uninsured residents are putting a huge strain on hospitals and forcing them to close down their obstetrics departments.

According to the most recent data available from the Michigan Department of Community Health, 15.6 percent of Michigan’s non-elderly adults are uninsured, and northern lower Michigan has a higher than average rate of people who are uninsured.

Cheboygan Memorial Hospital closed its urgent care walk-in clinic last month and announced that it will discontinue its obstetric services this month because the high level of uninsured and Medicaid patients has bankrupted the unit. According to the hospital, in fiscal year 2009 CMH posted a $304,000 loss in the OB department.

In a statement the small hospital explained that its main service area includes not only Cheboygan County but also Presque Isle County, Montmorency County, the northern half of Emmet County, and the eastern half of Mackinac County, and that seasonal unemployment levels in some of these areas tops well over 25 percent.

Florida made the news for attempting to make all abortion criminal earlier this year.  Now, as legislation piles up, political experts are noticing the trend of “symbolic politics” as candidates try to cozy up to their anti-choice base.

Creating jobs and cutting spending may be lawmakers’ declared priorities this spring, but that has not dissuaded some conservatives from filing a raft of proposals relating to abortion and the unborn.

About half of the bills come from legislators running for re-election, in a year when Tea Party activists and other GOP malcontents are challenging candidates to prove their conservative credentials. At least one bill was scheduled for a hearing early in the session, by a Republican committee chairwoman who is running for governor.

John Stemberger, of the Florida Family Policy Council, said he’s delighted to see this year’s show of anti-abortion initiatives. Lawmakers’ votes and sponsorship of at least some of the bills, he said, will factor prominently in the guide to political candidates his organization compiles each year for socially conservative voters.

Finally, two weeks ago, Arizona politician Trent Franks stated that abortion was worse for the African American community than slavery.  Now, Personhood Nevada is comparing its drive to get fertilized eggs to have full rights to the push to end slavery in the country.

The initiative petition, filed Oct. 21 with the Secretary of State’s Office, would amend the Nevada Constitution to give “the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, health or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn.”

The opening brief filed Thursday, signed by Las Vegas lawyer Michael L. Peters, says the Civil War was fought to correct a “terrible wrong” that blacks were considered property and not people.

This petition, Peters said, seeks a constitutional amendment that every human being from the beginning of life shall be considered a person.

Judge Russell said the language in the initiative petition was too general and vague and failed to give adequate notice to residents of what they would be voting on.

Frankly, I think anyone who believes that a fertilized egg is a “person” should take a moment and ask a couple who have undergone a failed IVF attempt how they enjoy being parents.  That should make it very clear that pregnancy does not begin at fertilization.

Mini Roundup – It’s a very rare occurrence when the pro-choice and anti-choice get to agree.  The Nebraska prenatal funding bill is one of those moments of convergence where everyone gets to be mad at the governor.

March 12, 2010

Anti-abortion campaigner arrested over ‘death threats’ to Elton John – PinkNews.co.uk

Dahlkemper’s health-care reform vote not set – GoErie.com

Pelosi: Stupak Wants Health Care Reform (VIDEO) – Huffington Post

NYT Urges Abortion-Rights Supporters to ‘Make Their Voices Heard.’ The Real … – Newsweek

First thoughts: Trust and the trip – msnbc.com

3 Observations on the Current State of Healthcare Reform -— Counting Votes … – Hospital Review

Survey Shows Closing Gap In Generational Differences Concerning Abortion – RTT News

Bart Stupak: Nancy Pelosi Lacks Votes for Pro-Abortion Health Care in House – LifeNews.com

Michigan: Trucker Guilty in Killings – New York Times

Pelosi Calls Stupak’s Bluff on Abortion – Big Think

Stupak Gains Primary Challenger – Ms. Magazine

Universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate – Washington Post

If Republicans keep ignoring abortion, they’ll lose in the midterm elections – Washington Post

Pro-Life Democrat Claims Committee Chairman Wants Government to Fund Abortions – FOXNews

Advocating for Women: Texas Equal Access Fund. – Tapped

Abortion Tweeter Sets Sparks Flying Across Internet – AOL News

Maddow: Anti-abortion language can’t pass through reconciliation – Raw Story

State verifies signatures for abortion initiative – KTUU

House passes abortion ultrasound bill – Charleston Gazette

Tea Party Avoids Divisive Social Issues – New York Times

Anti-abortion zealot makes pitch to Iowa evangelical voters – Salt Lake Tribune

Pelosi Aborts Stupak Negotiations – TIME

Secretary Clinton Should Raise Issue of China’s One Child Policy in Beijing – Huffington Post

Women on Contraceptive Pills May Live Longer – TopNews United States

Philippine voters would defy church on birth control – AsiaOne

How birth control pills may affect our ability to find a proper mate. – ABC News

Can the Birth Control Pill Help You Live Longer? – TIME

Women on Birth Control Live Longer – Daily Beast

All those births put planet at risk, scholars warn – Salt Lake Tribune

HIV/AIDS Registers a Rise Among Girls and Women – TopNews United States

Nearly 100 Australian authors condemn China for denying visa to HIV-positive … – The Canadian Press

Ugandan Doctor Fears Ground May be Lost Against HIV/AIDS if US and other … – Voice of America

Protect the drug giants’ patents – and harm the health of the poor? – The Guardian

Women Declare: ‘We’re Not Dolls!’ – Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Genital Herpes Hits Black Women Hardest – NPR

March 13, 2010

Specialty plates touting right to abortion will face vote today – The Virginian-Pilot

US avoids anti-abortion debate at UN meeting – The Associated Press

Bart Stupak: Abortion Problem For Democrats – The Admonition

GOP gubernatorial hopefuls clash – San Diego Union Tribune

Georgia Considers Outlawing Abortions Based on Race, Gender – FOXNews

Poizner shifts on abortion and school bonds – San Diego News Room

‘Trust Women/Respect Choice’ License Plate Passes – WJZ

W.Va. abortion bill heads to Gov. Manchin – Charleston Gazette

Catholic hospitals support health care bill – The Associated Press

Emaciated budget trumps sideshow of social bills – R & D Magazine

Dark days when abortion was illegal – Berkshire Eagle

Catholic Health Association Endorses Pro-Abortion Senate Health Care Bill – LifeNews.com

Both candidates veer right in Calif. GOP gov. race – San Jose Mercury News

Insurers report on use of abortion riders – Washington Post

Virginia legislators, give us choices – Daily Press

Lawmakers should show they care by mandating that emergency contraception be … – Plain Dealer

Annie Lennox trying to get world to see changing face of AIDS – CNN International

March 14, 2010

Catholic Health Group Accepts Abortion Language in Reform Bill – Politics Daily

House, Senate bills both change policy, differ on impact – Wausau Daily Herald

Obama’s health care legacy hangs on power of Rep. Clyburn’s persuasion – MiamiHerald.com

Ultrasound bill goes to Manchin – Beckley Register-Herald

Abortion Debate Still Contains More Questions Than Answers – Southern Pines Pilot

Anti-abortion group says amendment push similar to slavery issue – Las Vegas Sun

New Bill On Abortion Practices Passes – WTAP-TV

Health care, Catholics, and life issues – Examiner.com

Debate on abortion will never go away – Yuma Sun

Wake could restore abortion funding from insurance – WRAL.com

Several abortion bills await in Tallahassee – Tampa Tribune

WV Pro-Life Group Pleased With Legislative Action  – WHAG

Obama Administration Pushes Back on Abortion Claims – New York Times

Birth control is an electoral issue, says new survey – Manila Standard Today

Partying to Change the World – New York Times

Floating population births a worry – Global Times

Failure to Act by the Kentucky House of Representatives Leaves Hundreds of … – PR Web

CDC Launches HIV/AIDS Info Web Site – Afro American

Annie Lennox “SINGS”! Asks for Help for Women and Children – Lez Get Real

D.C. handing out 500000 female condoms to fight HIV – CNN

Cabinet approves new anti HIV/AIDS plan – Politicsweb

New female condom adds to anti-AIDS arsenal – Chicago Tribune

HIV/AIDS care needs state funds – Charleston Post Courier

Health-Care Fight Targets Waverers – Wall Street Journal

C-Sections linked to women dying in/after childbirth – Examiner.com

Sarah Tucker: Health care for babies – Omaha World-Herald

Prenatal care debate: Beyond costs – Omaha World-Herald

Local infant mortality higher among blacks than whites – Houma Courier

Give children knowledge of sex – Salt Lake Tribune

March 15, 2010

Life, Rights Begin At Conception – Harrisonburg Daily News Record

Catholics Start to Show Cards on Health Reform – TIME

Arguments Set In Abortion Nofification – MyFox Chicago

Stupak: There Is No Abortion Compromise – TPMDC

Lawmakers claim abortion bills don’t limit rights of women – Tampa Tribune

Oral arguments scheduled in Illinois abortion notification case – FOX2now.com

Free Contraception Can Cut Abortion Rate in Half – eMaxHealth

Count Your Sperms Before You Plan – Oneindia

Plan advocating sterilization continues to spark criticism, debate, support – Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Contraceptive pill use ‘is not linked to a higher death rate’ – Zenopa

Children, women with HIV face destitution & violence – MorungExpress

Panel Questions “VBAC Bans,” Advocates Expanded Delivery Options for Women – Media Newswire

Drop in childbirth deaths not happening – Chicago Daily Herald

DIY cervical cancer test launched today – Mirror.co.uk

Midwife law may deliver more home births – Casper Star-Tribune Online

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.

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.