Roundup: One Day You’re In, and the Next Day, You’re Out

Beth Saunders

Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) is likely out of a job, and the pill celebrated 50 years on Mother's Day.

Who’s In

President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. If she is confirmed, the nation’s highest court will have three female justices for the first time in history.  Where she stands on the issues remains to be seen – which is exactly why she may have been nominated in the first place. According to CNN Politics:

Why she may be chosen: Her lack of a substantive paper trail on hot-button issues may blunt initial conservative criticism over where she stands on these topics. She has a reputation as a political pragmatist and consensus-builder who enjoys the support of liberal and conservative academics. That perceived ability to reach across the aisle could help Kagan on a divided high court. Her relative youth (she would be the youngest member of the court) could give Obama a longer judicial legacy. She also would provide greater gender diversity to the bench.

Who’s Out

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Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) will not be on the ballot come November after losing in the Republican caucus for not being conservative enough. Although his primary fault appears to be voting for the bank bailout, some on the far-right also believe he wasn’t fully committed on “life” issues –  despite supporting the preferred National Right to Life position 53 out of 55 scored votes. His alleged offenses include:

  • Authored health care legislation that includes abortion coverage.
  • September 10, 2009 Voted for Cass Sunstein to be a Regulatory czar. Sunstein says “abortion should not be seen as murder of the fetus but instead as a refusal to continue to permit one’s body to be used to provide assistance to it.”
  • September 13, 2000 voted against urging China to end its forced abortion policy.
  • February 2, 2000 voted to provide special penalties in bankruptcy against pro-life protesters.
  • February 18, 1993 Voted for taxpayer funded research using tissue from fetuses from elective abortions.
  • February 11, 1998 Voted against a ban on human cloning
  • July 18, 2006 Voted to allow taxpayer funding for stem cell research on human embryos.
  • February 10, 1998 Voted for David Satcher for Surgeon General. Satcher supported partial birth abortion.

Mini-Roundup: In case you hadn’t heard, the birth control pill turned 50! Everyone and their mother are talking about it. Plus, Raquel Welch claims our moral standards have plummeted.

May 10, 2010

Saving women’s lives without abortion – National Post

Five bills Gov. Crist should veto –

Abortion debate could continue, even with Crist’s decision – Florida Times-Union

Sen. Bennett is No ‘Staunch’ Conservative – Human Events

Popular Pill Still Causing Controversy – KFBB NewsChannel 5

Opposing view on women’s choice: New law empowers women – USA Today

Bill Poehler: Abortions are being done on your dime – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Abortion issue is really all about choice – Guelph Mercury

Sidney Thomas’ Western roots would add regional diversity to the court – CNN

Does the Pill Cut Women’s Sex Drive? New Study Sees Link – TIME

Control issues – Naperville Sun

”Justice Kagan”? And Happy Birthday, Birth Control Pill! – 89.3 KPCC (blog)

Pill’s golden anniversary hailed as testament to women’s rights – Oregon Daily Emerald

HIV/Aids activist flees China for US – The Guardian

China mulls routine HIV test for pregnant women – Xinhua

Cultural Attitudes and Rumors Are Lasting Obstacles to Safe Sex – New York Times

Anti-AIDS project benefits Bharatpur sex workers – Times of India

Dr. Drew Commends Bristol Palin and Sarah Palin’s Parenting – Babble Magazine (blog)

Uganda film festival provokes maternal health debate – The Guardian (blog)

Abortion law is criticized, defended off base – Tulsa World

Giving birth should be safer –

Woman Fired For Breastfeeding Files With EEOC – North Country Gazette

Mom clings to hope despite losing limbs after childbirth – Houston Chronicle

Elena Kagan: Obama’s safe yet daring Supreme Court pick – San Francisco Chronicle (blog)

May 9, 2010

Making informed choices on abortion – The Star-Ledger – (blog)

Protesters want Crist to veto abortion bill – Tampa Tribune

Red Family, Blue Family – New York Times

A Spreading Peril for Women’s Privacy and Freedom – New York Times

Ultrasound mandates in abortions cross a line – USA Today

Bill Poehler: Abortions are being done on your dime – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Canadian women’s groups feel chill over abortion policies – AFP

Confused about federal take on women’s health – Guelph Mercury

Pro-choice advocates celebrate mother’s day with a protest rally –

As the pill turns 50, family planning too costly for many – Kansas City Star

Tories play politics with women’s lives – Calgary Sun

Maryland Film Festival: ’12th & Delaware’ highlights gulf in abortion standoff – Baltimore Sun (blog)

Other views: Taxpayer funds shouldn’t pay for abortions (May 9) – Florida Today

Our views: Veto this bill (May 9) – Florida Today

ACLU says Louisville’s abortion clinic one of the worst in the country – WHAS (subscription)

‘The Pill’ packed great promise, but what’s really changed in 50 years? – Vancouver Sun

Birth Control On Market For 50 Years –

Realizing the Impact of Birth Control on its Fiftieth Anniversary – GlobalShift

It’s sex o’clock in America – CNN

Clinical trials to begin for male contraceptive gel – 89.3 KPCC

Faith Salie: Happy Birthday to the Pill – CBS News

Birth Control Pill turns 50 –

Ironically The Birth Control Pill Turns 50 On Mother’s Day – WFMY News 2

Contraceptive Pill marks 50th anniversary — but fight is not over yet – Times Online

Happy Birthday, the Pill – Truthdig

A Brief History of Birth Control – Connecticut Business News Journal

Birth Control Pill Turns 50 – WCTV

Being an older mom: ‘It feels like what was supposed to happen’ – Northwest Herald

Guest commentary: No woman should die giving life – The Ames Tribune

The Pill turns 50 – Daily News & Analysis

The morning after – Boston Globe

The pill — a modern philosopher’s stone – Los Angeles Times

Bitter pill to swallow – Winnipeg Free Press

Mothers reflect on birth-control pill on its 50th anniversary – Denver Post

Birth control pill marks 50 years –

FDA Approves First 4-Phasic Oral Contraceptive – Medscape

Contraceptives have come a long way but the pill remains popular – Tampa Tribune

Center to serve gay youth planned for Baltimore – Baltimore Sun

These camps will also give kids a summer to remember – Detroit Free Press

HIV center opens in TF – Twin Falls Times-News

Lawyers try to join biting case – Detroit Free Press

Honoring mothers worldwide – Politico

‘ME NOW, Baby Later,’ inspires Texas teens to delay parenthood – KVUE

More women waiting later to have children – The Tennessean

C-section rates tick upward as doctors fear being sued – Poughkeepsie Journal

What you need to know about Pap tests – Bismarck Tribune

We want the best for all mothers, children – The Tennessean

Mothers are good to have … and we often take them for granted – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Wisdom born in teen moms’ lives – Kansas City Star

May 8, 2010

Rhonda Copelon, Lawyer in Groundbreaking Rights Cases, Dies at 65 – New York Times

Abortion issue tough for some Dem gov candidates – Centre Daily Times

Women’s health choices include abortion – Edmonton Journal

Demographics of Abortion: Race, Poverty and Choice – Huffington Post (blog)

Workshop: Abortions, breast cancer linked? – Hilton Head Island Packet

Abortion CHILL – Winnipeg Free Press

Abortion bill: Rubio says sign, Meek says veto-Latest Kendrick Meek Headlines – New York News Today

Abortion law differs from 1999 version – Arizona Republic

‘The Pill’ packed great promise, but what’s really changed in 50 years? – Vancouver Sun

The pill is 50, but India still undecided – Times of India

Family planning workshop for pharmacists to be organized – Yemen News Agency

50 years of ‘the pill’ — and here’s yet another one – Los Angeles Times (blog)

Masters of the Uterus – Mother Jones

Soaring tide of teenage pregnancies – Hampshire Chronicle

Bedroom to Boardroom: How the Pill Changed Lives – CBS News

1.4million on new pill – and most are paying for it – Sydney Morning Herald

The pill celebrates 50 years of sexual freedom – The Money Times

The pill, and different contraception methods – Independent

The Birth Control Pill Amazingly Turns 50 On Mother’s Day – SmartAboutHealth

Birth control pill could put women off macho men –

Women Have Come a Long Way, Baby – Tonic

50 years on, birth-control pill’s formulation and marketing have evolved – Winnipeg Free Press

The big power of a tiny pill – Vancouver Sun

Canada hit for position on family planning – Ottawa Citizen

NHS cuts funds for sex health campaigns – Scotsman

S.Africa, changing track on AIDS, faces challenges – The Associated Press

HIV-positive man faces sex-assault charges – Ottawa Citizen

World Cup Welcome: A Billion Condoms and 40000 Sex Workers – CBS News

Celebrate: Save a Mother – New York Times

Happy Mother’s Day: You’re fired! – Danbury News Times

May 7, 2010

Why Taxing Abortion Is Bad Policy, Kansas Pro-Life Bill Well-Intended But Wrong –

University of Wisconsin Medical Center Still Plans to Offer Late Abortions – Ms. Magazine

Tory G8 abortion stance unjust: journal –

Bredesen fails to sign abortion bill – Weakley County Press

The Lancet slams Canada’s G8 abortion stand –

The pill: Making motherhood better for 50 years – Washington Post

Tories’ abortion stand slammed as ‘hypocritical and unjust’ – Toronto Star

Tories called out on Congo rapes – Toronto Star

America’s favorite birth control method turns 50 – The Associated Press

Abortion veto choice is defining, or redefining, moment for Charlie Crist – Daily Caller

G8 Battle Breaks Out Over International Abortion Funding – Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute

Abortion documentary stirs controversy – Albany Times Union

What Every Girl Should Know – New York Times

Fifty years of the Pill – Irish Times

50 years of a sometimes bitter pill – BBC News

Poll: Most Say The Pill Improved Women’s Lives – CBS News

Saying goodbye to your menstrual cycle – WDTN

As the Pill turns 50, the little agent of modernity still arouses trouble – Globe and Mail

‘The pill’ turns 50: Has it lived up to the hype? – Atlanta Journal Constitution

Lawmakers Raise Concerns about Pentagon Approval of Plan B Pill for US Bases – Lifesite

The Pill: 50 Years Later – FOXNews

Five best and worst places to be a mom – CNN (blog)

Birth Control Pill Turns 50: 7 Ways It Changed Lives – U.S. News & World Report

The pill: Making motherhood better for 50 years – Washington Post

Where’s the male birth control pill? – CNN

Wisconsin Provides Additional Funding For HIV And AIDS Health Care – Gov Monitor

Midwives’ services in high demand – Montreal Gazette

More women giving birth after 40 – Baltimore Sun

As the pill turns 50, 200 million more women still need it – SOS Children

Survey: Teens uninformed about sex – Journal Times

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.