News Abortion

Changes in Reporting Methods May Be Responsible for Increased Rate of Abortion in Arizona

Robin Marty

It looks like one of the most anti-choice states in the nation is having a rise in its abortion rate.  But is it real?

Since the replacement of pro-choice Janet Napolitano with anti-choice Governor Jan Brewer, Arizona has become one of the most hostile states to reproductive health and rights in the nation. Yet somehow, despite the onslaught of new regulations, the abortion rate is rising.

Via the Arizona Daily Star, the rate of terminations has increased 25 percent in the last year, the highest it has been in a decade.

But analysts believe the rise may have less to do with an actual increase in the number of abortions provided, and instead be based on a change in how the numbers are reported, converting from a paper to electronic system.

[State health director Will] Humble said the old records system essentially involved abortion providers filing paper reports. He said that often led to problems keeping track of data.

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The new system, he said, requires clinics and doctors to file electronic reports. Humble said that mandate, coupled with better training of abortion providers and their staffs, should mean better data from now on to make comparisons.

Whether the increase is real or just a product of better reporting won’t be clear until another year of data is compiled for comparison. Roughly half of all pregnancies in Arizona are unintended, but the state remains determined to limit access to affordable contraception, as it fights, for example, to allow employers to refuse insurance coverage of contraception. As a result, an already-high rate of unintended pregnancies will continue to be a problem in Arizona.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Calls Out Debate Moderators for Ignoring Abortion

Ally Boguhn

Reproductive rights and justice advocates, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have spent months demanding Democratic debate moderators address abortion, organizing around the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) this week on the campaign trail ignored questions about whether he supports radical “personhood” legislation, while Hillary Clinton called out Democratic debate decision makers for failing to ask the candidates about abortion rights.

Clinton Critical of Democratic Debates for Ignoring Abortion Rights and Access 

After moderators at eight debates failed to ask Democratic presidential candidates about abortion, Clinton called out the unwillingness to address the issue during CNN’s Thursday debate in Brooklyn.

“You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned. And I want to say something about this, since we’re talking about the Supreme Court and what’s at stake,” Clinton said. “We’ve had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question.”

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“We have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights,” the former secretary of state continued. “We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.”

Fact-checking site Politifact pored over transcripts of each Democratic debate during the 2016 presidential race. “We could not find any example of a moderator asking a direct question about abortion,” the site concluded, rating the claim “true.”

Reproductive rights and justice advocates, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have spent months demanding Democratic debate moderators address the topic, organizing around the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

“You might be thinking, Clinton and Sanders are both pro-choice and miles ahead of the Republican candidates, so what’s the point in talking about it? Well, both candidates support expanding health care access and regulating Wall Street, but that hasn’t stopped them from clashing over how to do it. It should be the same for abortion,” reproductive justice advocate Renee Bracey Sherman explained in an article for Glamour ahead of Thursday’s debate. “We can’t continue to allow anti-choice candidates to define the conversation. We must demand that our pro-choice politicians do more than just check the box. They must advance access to care, not maintain the status quo.”

Cruz Won’t Address His Anti-Choice Record During MSNBC Town Hall

The Texas senator on Thursday tried to gloss over his extreme anti-choice record during a town hall event hosted by MSNBC, refusing to answer eight direct questions about whether he supports so-called personhood legislation, which could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

“I told you I’m not going to get into the labels, but what I will say is we should protect life. But I’m not interested in anything that restricts birth control,” Cruz said when confronted by moderator Chuck Todd about whether he supports legislation that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby granting constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, zygotes, and embryos. “And I’m not interested in anything that restricts in vitro fertilization because I think parents who are struggling to create life, to have a child, that is a wonderful thing,” continued the Republican presidential candidate.

But as MSNBC’s Jane C. Timm noted, “It’s unclear what Cruz defines to be birth control,” as he refused to answer Todd’s inquiry about whether Cruz considers intrauterine devices a form of contraception. Cruz has falsely equated some forms of hormonal contraception to “abortion-inducing drugs.

Cruz may have refused to discuss “personhood” during his MSNBC appearance, but he has, for the most part, been a vocal proponent of such legislation. The candidate in February released a video promising to “do everything” within his power to end abortion access if elected president, as Rewire reported. Cruz in the video threw his support behind a South Carolina bill that proposed giving fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses full constitutional rights.

He also gave his support for a similar measure in Georgia.

“I have been around conservatives my entire life. I have never met a single human being, in any place, who wanted to ban contraceptives,” Cruz said. Though Cruz has repeatedly alleged that Republicans have never tried to ban contraceptives, he has consistently pushed for legislation to do just that.

Along with the “personhood” measures he has supported, Cruz has crusaded to defund Planned Parenthood, applauded Texas Republicans for restricting Medicaid funding for abortion care while encouraging other states to do the same, and used his Senate seat to attempt to restrict access to contraception.

Cruz also worked to block a Washington, D.C. law to protect residents from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions, which could have made accessing contraception more difficult had he succeeded.

What Else We’re Reading

Donald Trump’s campaign manager won’t be prosecuted for allegedly assaulting journalist Michelle Fields.

The campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Clinton are joining the Democratic Party in a lawsuit against Arizona’s Maricopa County after voters there faced hours-long waits to cast a ballot in their state’s primary. The lawsuit alleges that Arizona’s “alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters county-wide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines.” The situation was “particularly burdensome” for communities of color, who had less placesand in some cases no placesto vote.

The New York Times’ editorial board encouraged Clinton to “say more about the crime bill” which she supported and was signed into law by her husband in 1994. Another article in the Times explained that while the bill was not singularly responsible for mass incarceration, it added to prison populations and the “results may still be playing out.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) couldn’t believe that a young woman at one of his campaign rallies came up with a question for him about social security on her own. “Did somebody tell you to ask this question?” Kasich asked the woman, according to the Huffington Post. “No,” she told the Republican presidential candidate. “I think for myself.”

Mother Jones’ David Corn reported that Cruz once defended a law criminalizing the sale of sex toys. In their brief, Cruz’s legal team declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal judge to block Kansas’ restrictive voter ID law. The GOP measure requires proof of American citizenship when registering to vote while applying for a driver’s license pending the outcome of their suit against the law. At least 16,000 people have been stopped from registering to vote by the law, according to the ACLU. The preliminary injunction would stop the law from being enforced ahead of upcoming elections in August and November.

A Black man from Wisconsin brought three forms of identification to the polls in Wisconsin and still wasn’t allowed to vote thanks to the state’s Republican-backed voter ID law.

Analysis Law and Policy

Will Justice Kennedy Be Responsible for Marriage Equality Going the Way of Abortion Access?

Jessica Mason Pieklo

As a likely swing vote in the upcoming marriage equality cases, Justice Kennedy may push the issue back to the states.

This week the Supreme Court will hear arguments over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, and all eyes are on Justice Anthony Kennedy—as they should be, for the fate of marriage equality likely rests in his hands.

Unlike other cases that implicate personal privacy rights, the marriage equality cases appear before the court framed in part as a conflict between state rights and federal power. We don’t often frame social issues like marriage equality as being only about the balance of power between the federal government and the states. That’s because, aside from the last neo-Confederate holdouts, we’ve largely accepted that a person’s rights should not be defined by that person’s state of residence. In other words, we accept that a citizen of Alabama should be entitled to the same basic rights and protections as a citizen of California. But in both of the the marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court right now, the question is, “Is marriage a fundamental right, and if so, to what degree can states legally restrict that right?”

Framing the fight over marriage equality as a battle over federal and state powers has risks. The greatest of these risks is that it provides an opportunity for the conservative court to again limit the reach of federal power while granting states license to pass and enforce state-level marriage equality bans. Much like the battle over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court could do so in a way that looks like a win to marriage equality advocates but threatens broader equality rights overall. For Justice Kennedy, the key swing vote in these cases, this may be too good to refuse.

In NFIB v. Sebelius, the decision that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice John Roberts and the rest of the court embraced the legal argument that states have the power to limit the federal government when it came to establishing and administering the requirements of the federal Medicaid program. This was a radical re-understanding of the relationship between the federal government and the states. The law was upheld, but the decision fueled hard right social conservatives in attacking social benefits programs. It was a victory for social justice advocates, but one that has come at a steep cost, as states including Texas and Arizona push for ways to opt out of social benefit programs like Title X.

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Marriage equality faces a similar threat. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court will hear arguments as to whether Proposition 8, a California voter initiative that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, violates the federal Constitution. In U.S. v. Windsor, the court will hear arguments challenging the part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 that defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” in determining federal benefits.

Should the court defer to the states on the issue of defining marriage and uphold Prop 8 while striking Section 3 of DOMA, then, much like the battle over access to abortion care, the battle over marriage equality will move primarily to the states. And much like the battle over abortion access, it could very well be Justice Kennedy that takes it there.

For Kennedy, the issue of fundamental rights and privacy is a cornerstone in his legacy on the court. In 2003, he authored the opinion that struck state sodomy laws as an unconstitutional violation of the right to privacy in the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas. Eleven years earlier, when the court was asked to overturn Roe v. Wade in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice Kennedy reportedly sided at first with the conservative wing to reverse Roe‘s foundational privacy ruling, but later changed his vote after meeting with Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the Roe decision, who expressed his concern to Kennedy that history would judge him harshly should he be the vote to overturn Roe. With public opinion squarely in support of marriage equality, it seems likely that Kennedy is  remembering Blackmun’s warning this week.

At least 31 states already have laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Why wouldn’t Justice Kennedy vote to respect those laws under the guise of reigning in the federal government? It’s just the kind of straw-man reasoning that justified his “support” of privacy rights in Roe, despite his future decisions that have done nothing but undermine that right. Next, he could do so in an opinion that would ultimately side with a same-sex couple.

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