Roundup: The Road To The Supreme Court is Paved With Good Intentions

Robin Marty

Nebraska Fetal Pain law weighed in on by lawyers, scientists, and...PETA!

Is it the Yellow Brick Road, or the Highway to Hell?  All I know is that the Nebraska Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is starting its long process to its real target — the Supreme Court, and no one is shocked at all.

It’s been called a groundbreaking law, but a measure approved in Nebraska last week that changes the rationale for abortion bans probably won’t go into effect anytime soon — if ever.

Instead, abortion opponents are hoping it will become the most important case on abortion to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in recent memory. Even they acknowledge the ban on abortions at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy won’t see the light of day unless the high court rules that it is constitutional.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The long trip to the high court — if it indeed lands there — combined with the time it takes for a ruling there could mean a final decision on the law is several years away.

First, a legal challenge must be posed. No one has stepped forward yet, but Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers, is considered a likely candidate. Carhart, who practices in an Omaha suburb and is the target of the new Nebraska law, was a plaintiff in two of the biggest abortion cases of the last decade that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anti-choice proponents are hoping that they can use the more conservative bent of the court to strike down the ban on limiting abortion before viability, and hope they have a savior in Justice Kennedy.

The fetal pain law violates court precedent that abortions cannot be banned before viability, so it is likely that an injunction will be issued, said Caitlin Borgmann, an abortion law scholar at the City University of New York.

“What the sponsors and supporters are really hoping for is a test case for Justice [Anthony] Kennedy,’’ she said.

Kennedy, a moderate conservative considered a swing vote, is seen by abortion opponents as their best chance for tighter restrictions on the procedure. Abortion rights advocates say he has done nothing to suggest he would favor a previability ban, but opponents are hopeful because of his positions on two high-profile abortion cases over the past decade. Both involve Carhart.

Alternet points out that for a crowd that likes to decry “judicial activism” they sure are interested in having courts make a decision that could overrule precedent.

So what’s going to happen once this gets to the Supreme Court? Tough to say, as we’re about to be treated to another episode of everyone’s favorite reality show, “Supreme Court Justice Confirmation.” But keep in mind, the Conservative Four (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) will be there regardless of who the rookie justice will be. And the Conservative Four have shown no hesitance to make dramatic changes in settled law – just go read about Citizens United and see how they turned decades of campaign finance reform on its’ collective head.

But, you might ask, shouldn’t the idea of judges making dramatic changes to settled law run counter to conservative ideals? Isn’t that – gasp – judicial activism that is so anathema to conservatives everywhere? Shouldn’t conservatives who believe in their principles just go to the ballot box and try to change law through the legislature instead of using the court to end run the will of the people, like they’ve loudly and consistently accused progressives of doing?

They should. I hope they do. I’m not holding my breath.

Of course, the best part is that the entire bill has been passed with the justification of faulty science.  This article includes not only a rebuttal of every one of the four “pain standard” thresholds presented in Nebraska, but continues on to acknowledge that almost no one agrees with the main proponent’s thesis and even those who do say it is utterly irrelevant.

Does anyone agree with Anand?     

Sort of. Vivette Glover of Imperial College London thinks it’s possible fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks “but it’s far from certain”. She backs giving anaesthesia at this stage just in case.

“But this does not justify changing the abortion time limit, where the interests of the mother may be much more important than those of the fetus, and the two have to be balanced,” she adds.

Indeed, Maria Fitzgerald of University College London, co-author of a report on fetal pain in 1997 by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, calls the Nebraska law “completely irrational”. She points out that even if fetuses could feel pain at 20 weeks, “it is irrelevant because if you wanted you could make sure there was adequate analgesia for an abortion”.

All of this still not enough of a circus for you?  Well, thank goodness we have PETA to weigh in on the fray

Lincoln, Neb. — In the wake of reports that Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed two bills broadening the restrictions on abortion, PETA is weighing in on the issue … kind of. The group plans to erect a billboard in Lincoln that reads, “Pro-Life? Go Vegan.” Click here to see the billboard.

“People who support slaughterhouses every time they lift a fork cannot call themselves ‘pro-life,'” says PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich. “We’re asking pro-life advocates to keep every heart beating by going vegan.”

In today’s industrialized meat and dairy industries, chickens and turkeys have their throats cut while they’re still conscious, piglets have their tails and testicles cut off without being given any painkillers, fish are suffocated or cut open while they’re still alive on the decks of fishing boats, and calves are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth.

Mini Roundup: Live Action gets no action in Wisconsin, and Santorum claims having everyone have access to healthcare is the greatest of oppression.

April 16, 2010

Texas law brings new abortion awareness – Oregon Daily Emerald

Want an abortion? Get prescreened – OneNewsNow

Pass the ban on abortion funding – Opelousas Daily World

McDonnell amends 122 bills – Roanoke Times

THE INFLUENCE GAME: Health care fight still rages – The Associated Press

Would-be Stupak rival raises $105K – Detroit Free Press

Veto Shows Abortion Corruption Started by Sebelius Encourages Carhart to … – Christian News Wire

Briefing: New law claims a fetus can feel pain – New Scientist

McDonnell accepts abortion ‘choice’ license bill, but blocks revenue from … – UPI.com

Remember Roe! – Newsweek

Objections raised, still abortion restrictions bill advances in Senate – Missourinet.com

Abortion coverage could sink Utahn’s low-income health insurance plans – Deseret News

Capitol Watch: Court fees, abortion and ethics – Kansas City Star

Pro-life ‘Moses’ Backs ‘Pro-choice’ Candidate – The New American

Former US senator criticizes “legal fictions” used to justify abortion – Louisville Courier-Journal

Obama Weighs Supreme Court Nominees, and Each Potential Battle – New York Times

April 17, 2010

PETA Joins Nebraska’s Abortion Debate – PETA

No charges in undercover Planned Parenthood video – Chicago Sun-Times

Medical care in developing world not the same as that in Canada – Owen Sound Sun Times

After distorted interview, Brazilian archbishop reaffirms Catholic teaching on … – Catholic News Agency

Call for inquiry on baby bonus abortion loophole – NEWS.com.au

Nebraska Abortion Law Challenges Roe v. Wade – The New American

Strong Support For Parental Notification Law – Scoop.co.nz

Utahns having fewer babies – Salt Lake Tribune

China detains parents of couples refusing sterilisation – Sify

April 18, 2010

Branstad’s Pre-Convention Message to Delegates – DesMoinesRegister.com

After health care fight, Stupak ponders legacy, future out of public life – The Saginaw News – MLive.com

Charlene Sitas: Court’s contradictions on abortion confusing – Wisconsin State Journal

Republican governor candidates champion anti-abortion credentials – Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

Abortion protesters’ signs were distasteful – Statesman Journal

Making abortion illegal doesn’t ‘save babies’, it kills and maims women and girls – East African

Strict new Neb. abortion law faces long legal road – The Associated Press

Using the law, we can reduce the number of abortions – East African

Foes may target Wood’s stance on abortion rights – Washington Post

Abortion rulings could bring scrutiny of possible Supreme Court pick Wood – Washington Post

Conservatives get set to cheer for judicial activism – AlterNet

Health reform seeks status quo on abortion – American Medical News

Obama’s abortion policies are shameful – Augusta Chronicle

Promise to rewrite Constitution will reignite debate on abortion – Irish Independent

Shall the righteous inherit the earth? – Seattle Post Intelligencer

Hundreds of Residents Receive Free Medical Services – BeritaJakarta.com

Kenya to align HIV/Aids strategy with new WHO guidelines – East African

April 19, 2010

GOP Promises to “Take Back New Hampshire” – The New American

Hontiveros, Tatad debate on RH Bill – ABS CBN News

Legal fights await abortion law – Boston Globe

Albuquerque – world’s next abortion capital? – OneNewsNow

WHO Official Praises Obama’s Recognition Of Need For Legal Abortion – Medical News Today

District not worried about sex ed warning  – Oshkosh Northwestern

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

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.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

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.”