Roundup: Baby You Can Drive My Car (But Not In Newton or Wellesley)

Robin Marty

Massachusetts is debuting "Choose Life" license plates, and some are afraid of the "pro-choice nuts" possible retribution.  Plus, a follow up on Friday's mini-roundup.

The state of Massachusetts has become the latest to consider adopting license plates to prove you are against a woman’s right to reproductive justice.  Much like the over 20 states that have created these plates, funds will be dedicated to crisis pregnancy centers in the state, regardless of the fact that they often mislead or lie outright to their clients.

Via WCVB in Boston:

The Choose Life plate will generate dollars for groups that want pregnant women to avoid abortion. Merry Nordeen spent years making it a reality.

“It goes to not-for-profit agencies that promote the life-saving option of life, adoption and safe havens,” Nordeen said.

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The plates, which will cost drivers $90 every two years, become one of 18 others in Massachusetts that both publicize and providing funding for charitable causes.

But critics worry about where the funds go.

“These plates create a tool to fundraise for so-called pregnancy crisis centers, which have been proven to provide false, misleading and medically inaccurate information to pregnant women,” said Andrea Miller, of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

“I’ve heard from women that have been helped by those organizations that are very grateful for those organizations. Because they’re not for profit, they really do need the money. More money means help more women, and that’s our aim,” Nordeen said.

“Our goal right now is really to focus on where we can find common ground and that should be about looking at those programs and policies that can improve the chances of preventing unintended pregnancy in the first place,” Miller said.

Not sure if you want a plate or not?  Would it change your mind to know that this endeavor has God’s stamp of approval, according to the plates’ sponsor?  From Masslive.com:

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is set to offer a “Choose Life” plate sponsored by the anti-abortion organization Massachusetts Choose Life, Inc. The plate’s design features a yellow heart behind an image of a mother holding a child.

..

Merry Nordeen, 47, began campaigning for the Massachusetts plates in 2003.

“I prayed really hard for this — I prayed for seven years, and God didn’t disappoint me,” Nordeen, a secretary at St. Joseph Parish in Wakefield, told the Boston Globe.

Ironically, even the pro-life supporters in the state are a little worried about the idea of protest via license plate.  As Dennis Shaughnessey writes in the Valley Dispatch:

I’m not ashamed of my pro-life stance and it’s not that I’m balking at the $40 fee for a Massachusetts specialty plate. I’m just worried about the fallout. I can foresee the cases of road rage that such a license plate can evoke. Imagine driving down Route 128 at 70 mph and some pro-choice nut driving behind you spots your Choose Life license plate. There are certain communities from which I would steer clear if I had a Choose Life license plate on my car. Bad enough that I have a Christian fish on my car.

I’d probably stay out of towns like Provincetown, which recently approved the distribution of condoms to students, regardless of their age. I’d stay out of Brookline, a bastion for liberal forelock-tuggers and I’d probably drive all the way around Newton and Wellesley.

To say that the Choose Life specialty plates has enflamed the abortion rights issue is an understatement. How long until the American Civil Liberties Union gets involved? Nothing about this plate is going to reverse Roe vs. Wade. Nothing about this plate is going to change anyone’s mind on the subject.

Mini Roundup: Followup Monday — last Friday we learned that an anti-choice protester in San Antonio was charged with a FACE violation, and a Planned Parenthood instructor in Iowa was accused of “contributing to the delinquency of minors” with her sex ed class.  Today, read an interview with the protester, who claims the allegation are all false, an a rebuttle from the Iowa instructor, who allegedly didn’t say most of what the students’ parents said she did.

June 18, 2010

Congress, Obama, and Taxpayer Funding of Abortion – National Review Online

Massachusetts “Choose Life” plate gives drivers new mouthpiece in abortion debate – MassLive.com

FDA Panel Recommends Approval Of ellaOne Morning-after Contraceptive Pill – TimesNewsline.com

Health Policy Research – Kaiser Health News

After Stupak, Abortion Advoactes Consider Reframing the Issue – Campus Progress

Mitch Daniels Walks Back Opposition to Pro-Life Policy, Keeps Abortion Truce – LifeNews.com

Anti Abortion Right to Life vanity plates: DMV offers Choose Life plates – Examiner.com

Feds sue abortion protester under little-used law – Houston Chronicle

Petition Asks Obama Administration to Not Approve New Abortion Drug Ella – LifeNews.com

The abortion debate needs to include the forgotten fathers – Christian Science Monitor

A PRO-LIFE LICENSE PLATE? THAT’S ASKING FOR TROUBLE – Valley Dispatch

5-day ‘morning after’ pill gets FDA advisers’ approval – CNN

“Truce” over: Mitch Daniels supports reinstating Mexico City policy on abortion – Hot Air

FDA panel recommends approval of 5-day ‘morning after’ pill – Los Angeles Times

License Plates To Carry Pro Life Message – WCVB-TV

Pro-life groups play part in politics – Dodge City Daily Globe

Ind. abortion foes set sights on health overhaul – CNBC

Campaigning for Common Ground in Abortion Debate – New York Times

Another Contraceptive Pill, Another Abortion Debate – Politics Daily

Interview: Pro-Lifer says Fed Lawsuit for Entering Abortuary Based on False … – Lifesite

Conservatives write own version of maternal, child health report – Montreal Gazette

Mitch Daniels cancels the truce – Washington Post

Administration announces “GHI Plus” countries – Kaiser Family Foundation

National HIV Testing Day events set – WPDE

June 19, 2010

Planned Parenthood educator responds – SW Iowa News

Wisconsin Abortion Doctor To Join Harvard Medical School – Harvard Crimson

Despite being legal, abortions still not accessible for all Canadians – Globe and Mail

Reproductive Health Act needs passed – Elmira Star-Gazette

Louisiana Becomes Latest State To Threaten Abortion Rights – Care2.com

How to Lose the Presidential Nomination in Two Days – FOXNews

Women value the pill – In-Forum

Bill Clinton Speaks Out on Kagan – New York Times

Abortion-rights group applauds FDA panel’s recommendation  – The Hill

Teens Advised to Consider Benefits of IUD Use for Birth Control – HealthNewsDigest.com

Huge drop in HIV infections – Times LIVE

June 20, 2010

GAO: Abortion-promoting groups got nearly $1 billion in federal funds – The Catholic Review

Law & Disorder: Man found guilty of killing woman over abortion – Florida Times-Union

Green Signal To New Morning After Pill By FDA Advisory Panel – Thaindian.com

Teach teenagers about the consequences of sexual activity  – Telegraph.co.uk

Abortion’s fundamental deception – RenewAmerica

Less Emphasis on Abortion — More on Justice, Common Good, Equality – ABC News

An HIV Balm in Gilead – Wall Street Journal

Women do ‘so much,’ but still need our help – Toronto Star

June 21, 2010

Most Canadians support international access to safe abortions: poll – Globe and Mail

Fiorina bucks feminist stereotype – San Francisco Chronicle

FDA Advisers Approve 5-day ‘Morning After’ Pill – USANewsWeek.com

China’s only children prefer one child – Financial Times

Understanding Ella, the Latest Controversy in ‘Morning After Pills’ – Huffington Post

Global AIDS Fight Continues Despite Challenges – Media Newswire

Married couples with HIV/AIDS shouldn’t procreate – The Sun Daily

Focus or die: The G8 fights for survival – Globe and Mail

HPV vaccine for boys available – El Paso Times

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.

News Politics

Fox News Town Hall Host Asks Clinton, Sanders if Fetuses Should Have ‘Legal Rights’

Ally Boguhn

Brett Baier's question about abortion came one day after CNN’s Democratic debate became the party’s seventh debate that failed to ask the candidates about their stances on abortion rights.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Monday discussed their stances on abortion regulations during a town hall event hosted by Fox News.

Host Bret Baier, during a special edition of Fox News’ Special Report, spoke with Sanders and Clinton in Detroit ahead of Michigan’s primary vote. Baier asked Clinton: “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before it’s born?”

“Right now the Supreme Court is considering a decision that would shut down a lot of the options for women in Texas, and there have been other legislatures that have taken similar steps to try to restrict a woman’s right to obtain an abortion,” Clinton said.

“Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It’s not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained,” she said. “So I think we have to continue to stand up for a woman’s right to make these decisions, and to defend Planned Parenthood, which does an enormous amount of good work across our country.” 

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Clinton, when asked by Baier if there were any exceptions to her position, noted that she has been “on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.” Clinton noted that she opposes Congressional Republicans’ efforts to pass a 20-week abortion ban without exceptions such as the “complex, difficult medical situation[s]” that don’t occur until that point in a pregnancy.

Clinton has voiced support for some restrictions on abortion care, including so-called partial birth abortion bans, as long as they include exceptions.

Clinton responded to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) false assertion during a February debate that Clinton thought “all abortion should be legal, even on the due date of that unborn child,” saying “reasonable kinds of restrictions can be imposed [on abortion] as long as the life and health of the mother are taken into account and that’s what the law is today.”

Speaking with Sanders, Baier asked if the senator could “name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy at which point you would be OK with abortion being illegal.”

“It’s not a question of me being OK,” said Sanders, who pledged last year to fight the anti-choice “counter-revolution” unfolding in Republican-held state legislatures. “I know not everybody here will agree with me. I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body.”

Baier circled back, pushing Sanders to answer whether he was “saying no” to limits on abortion access “after five months” with exceptions such as life endangerment. “I am very strongly pro-choice,” Sanders said. “That is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician, and her family. That’s my view.”

Baier’s question about abortion came one day after CNN’s Democratic debate in Flint became the party’s seventh debate that failed to ask the candidates about their stances on the issue. January’s Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum hosted by news outlet Fusion, however, challenged the Democratic candidates to address abortion rights and reproductive health.