Days After Restrictive Abortion Law is Signed, North Carolina Clinic Has License Suspended

Remember how, when  Pat McCrory ran for governor of North Carolina last year, he promised not to pass any new abortion-related restrictions? Don’t worry, neither does he. And barely two days after McCrory signed an anti-choice bill into law, the FemCare clinic–also known as the only abortion provider in Western North Carolina–has had its licensed suspended.

Officials with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services say that the suspension is unrelated to the new law, and cited 23 violations. However, a statement released on behalf of the clinic alluded to the fact that those new regulations may have been a factor in the suspension: [Read more...]

Ross Douthat’s European Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times’s Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed about the “Texas abortion experiment.” While the conservative columnist acknowledged that Texas’s new law could make “first-trimester abortions harder to obtain,” he spent much of the piece downplaying the very real threats this law poses to women’s health and talking up similarly restrictive laws in Europe.

Douthat looks to the example of a number of European countries, including Ireland, for how the Texas law could play out. Yet he rejects comparisons between the United States and other certain countries that enact restrictive abortion laws. According to Douthat, concerns that “Women’s lives will be endangered, their health threatened, their economic opportunities substantially foreclosed” in America stem from similar outcomes in poorer and more conservative areas of the world and therefore are not appropriate sources to examine. He also adds that it is difficult to determine if “those bans actually hold back progress and development.”

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Studies have shown that when abortion is illegal, women still terminate their pregnancies—they just do so in unhygienic and dangerous conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank whose work Douthat also links to in his column:

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North Dakota’s “Heartbeat Law” Temporarily Blocked

We’ve written before about North Dakota’s attempts to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the nation: a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The law was scheduled to take effect on August 1.

Yesterday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote that:

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion … (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

Ireland’s Push to Legalize Abortion Continues

As Texas and North Carolina move towards sharply restricting abortion access, a country infamous for its own restrictive abortion laws is inching towards liberalization. Last week, Irish lawmakers passed a bill that would allow abortions to be performed to save a woman’s life. This vote moves the government closer to following a 1992 Supreme Court decision, which found that abortion should be legal if doctors feel it is necessary to protect a woman’s health, including if she threatens to commit suicide; however, six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of this ruling.

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I Believe in Wendy

Texas governor Rick Perry may have called another special session to pass the anti-abortion legislation Senator Wendy Davis successfully blocked last week, Stand with Texas womenbut that’s no reason to stop celebrating the senator’s filibuster.  She didn’t just show us that one woman could make a difference from within, even when the insider rules are ridiculous. (No leaning? No brace-touching?) She showed us how one woman making a difference from within is always already much more than “just one woman” without conceding an ounce of her own authority.

It was a living, breathing performance of a decidedly feminist construction of power.

Senator Davis did all the speaking because that was what the law required.  But while she was up there, she read the words of women who had sent her their abortion stories to fulfill her procedural obligation to stay on topic. She filibustered for 11 hours, but when the lieutenant governor went ahead and called the vote anyway, women in the gallery started chanting, making it impossible for him to get the votes on record. In both cases, Davis became, almost literally, in a whole French theorist sense, a woman who was not one. She was many.

I can’t think of a better way to use a rule that was quite obviously designed to keep any but the strongest-bladdered, hardiest-lunged individuals from speaking.

I don’t think it was an accident that Governor Perry decided to talk about Senator Davis’ personal history at the National Right to Life convention the next day. Or rather, I do, at least in the sense that I don’t think it required much calculation on his part. There’s no need when the sexism is ingrained. Senator Wendy Davis, leader of the “angry mob” the lieutenant governor groused may be a nuisance, but she’s a nuisance who has to be reckoned with. Wendy Davis the poor single mother, daughter of single woman herself, is categorically deficient by virtue of having a vagina. Of course his remarks went over like gangbusters at the Right to Life conference. Women have served as object lessons for that lot since Eve gummed up the works in Eden.

The good news for the rest of us is that Wendy Davis is still speaking, and she understands what assumptions are dressed up in Perry’s seemingly complimentary narrative. Turns out Davis is long past being shamed by her femininity or hoodwinked into giving credence to antiquated notions of nice little ladyhood. In fact, Davis’ response to Perry’s comments uses his own macho swaggering ideal of personal freedom against him by casting it as a virtue that transcends gender.

“It demonstrated that they just don’t understand how very personal these issues are,” she explains. “My story, my personal story, is my story. I have the ability to make choices and I had opportunities that I was able to take advantage of in my life. Other women of course should be able to define their own destinies and this idea that the heavy hand of government should somehow come in and tell her how to do that is deeply resented in [a] state like Texas. It’s deeply resented everywhere, but if you know anything about Texas, we hold very strongly to our traditions and our values where personal liberties are concerned.”

I don’t doubt that Perry has a brilliant staffer who will come up with an effective rebuttal. I don’t even doubt that that staffer is a woman. But during this week where we celebrate our nation’s independence, I’m grooving on Senator Davis’ message. “Anti-choice isn’t just anti-American, America, it’s anti-Texan!”

 

The New York Times Tackles Abortion Stigma

As reproductive rights activists in Texas gear up for another special session and Ohio governor John Kasich signs a budget that will make it much more difficult for women in that state to access reproductive health services, the New York Times‘ “Room for Debate” series is tackling abortion stigma. In specific, would increased openness around who has abortions, and why they make this choice, translate into increased public support for the procedure?

You can read each of the seven perspectives offered to get some answers, which encompass both pro- and anti-choice viewpoints. While I was especially inspired by Sonya Renee’s powerful entry, I also found myself nodding my head at points made by Aspen Baker and Kierra Johnson.

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5 Reasons to Worry About Choice

Feminism1For all their talk about re-branding, the GOP is as anti-choice and anti-woman as ever. How bad are they? Let me count the ways.

1) On Tuesday, Republican House members introduced a bill to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy. It’s the most restrictive abortion measure to come before the House in years.

2) The Republican sponsor of this bill,  Trent Franks, said the reason the original bill made no exception for rape was because the incidence of pregnancy after rape was “very low.”

3)  On Monday, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said abortion should be banned as early as 15 weeks after conception because he has seen male fetuses masturbate at that stage. Yes, you read that right. Yes, he is a doctor. No word on whether he thinks those male fetuses should be taught anything about masturbation when they’re out of the womb. Or whether he realizes that masturbation, especially in this particular instance, is a non-procreative sex act.

4) In New York, one of the first states to legalize abortion and the unofficial badass feminist capital of the world, the 10-part Women’s Equality Act is being derailed by two “independent” Democrats who caucus with Republicans. They want to introduce a bill that excludes any abortion legislation to give their anti-choice buddies political cover. Governor Cuomo fears they’ll succeed. The session ends Thursday. *Update: The NY State Assembly passed the full 10 points of the Women’s Equality Agenda on Thursday! Today’s the LAST day for the Dems holding the bill hostage to bring it to the floor in the Senate. The women of New York deserve a vote. Call today, and make sure they bring all 10 points to the floor for a vote! (518) 455-2800, then tell a friend!

5) The Texas Senate approved a measure that would tighten restrictions on abortion clinics, late on Tuesday night. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tweeted his excitement about shutting down the clinics down. *Update: Pro-choice Texans are storming the capital! While the bill’s supporters were rushing to get the vote in before the last day of the special session (called especially to pass this bill), . Over 700 Texans traveled to Austin on Thursday to testify against the anti-abortion measure before it could come to a vote in the House — and their “people’s filibuster” successfully prevented the legislation from advancing.

 

 

 

 

Guttmacher: Abortion Worldwide

This week, thousands of women’s health and empowerment advocates are in Kuala Lumpur for the Women Deliver 2013 conference. The conference, hailed as the largest global event of its kind this decade, is bringing together policy makers, advocates and researchers alike who are committed to reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to reproductive health.  The Guttmacher Institute’s staff and research are among those featured throughout the conference, including a short video presenting key evidence on abortion worldwide:

This video packs a punch with some very compelling statistics: [Read more...]

Gosnell Found Guilty (Mostly)

Guest blogger Sarah Cohen lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

gosnellToday a Philadelphia jury found Kermit Gosnell guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, and acquitted him on one count of first-degree murder.  This outcome is, in short, excellent news.  I want to distill the outrage and bluster over Gosnell’s practices and prosecution into a few simple talking points.  The most basic is that everyone, regardless of his or her stance on abortion, should be appalled by Kermit Gosnell.

A quick recap of the case: Women’s Medical Society [WMS] in West Philadelphia, run by Kermit Gosnell, was billed as a clinic that provided health care from geriatrics to OB/GYN, including abortion services.  It had a reputation for seeing patients who may have been turned away from other abortion providers due to lack of money, absence of parental consent, unwillingness to comply with Pennsylvania’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period, or the advanced stage of their pregnancy.  [Read more...]

Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Remains Open!

A federal judge has blocked part of a state law that could have closed Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only clinic in Mississippi. Last year, the state passed a law that would have required that physicians at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals. While the physicians at JWHO tried to comply with that mandate, no area hospital would grant the privileges. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has represents the clinic, “the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic’s patients were not granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area-with several hospitals refusing to even process the physicians’ applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care.”

Today’s ruling by District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III blocks the remaining forms of enforcement of this requirement, and prevents the state Department of Health from revoking the clinic’s license for being unable to comply with the admitting regulation. In his opinion, Judge Jordan wrote that “Closing its doors would — as the state seems to concede in this argument — force Mississippi women to leave Mississippi to obtain a legal abortion.” The judge also stated that Mississippi’s position in the case “would result in a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not others.”