Bills, Bills, Bills

Congratulations, Mississippi, you’re a trendsetter. As anti-choice politicians push forward in their bid to close the last abortion clinic in the state, legislators in North Dakota are seeking to close their state’s only clinic, too. Yesterday, state lawmakers passed a bill that requires physicians providing abortions at the Red River Clinic in Fargo to have admitting privileges at area hospitals—the same tactic that is threatening Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO).

The Red River clinic has often been the target of harassment and threats, and the physicians that work there don’t actually live in the state; in an arrangement similar to the one at JWHO, they travel from other states to provide abortion care. It’s too early to tell if hospitals in the Fargo area will grant these privileges, but as Amanda Marcotte pointed out in The American Prospect, “The chances of the doctors getting the privileges now are low, because hospitals don’t want to draw the same protests” as the clinic has faced.

[Read more...]

Update: Mississippi’s Sole Abortion Clinic Can Stay Open, For Now

Yesterday, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization received a welcome bit of good news. A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks enforcement of a new state law that requires that the clinic’s abortion providers have privileges at a local hospital.

The clinic has been working for several months to obtain these privileges, but the approval process and the amount of red tape involved have so far prevented that from happening. All of the clinic’s providers, who are board-certified OB/GYNs, travel to Mississippi from other states.

The next hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 11.

Quick Hit: Mississippi at Risk of Losing Only Abortion Clinic

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization – also known as Mississippi’s only abortion clinic – has asked a federal court to block a new law that could force the clinic to close. The law, which is set to go into effect on Sunday, July 1, would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic is also requesting more time to try and comply with the law; clinic representatives say that they began applying for the privileges several months ago, but have been unable to obtain them at any hospital located within a half-hour drive from the clinic. Representative Sam Mims, who sponsored the bill, has asked the state’s Department of Health to deny the clinic a grace period.

Unsurprisingly, the law’s supporters claim that their intent is to protect women. Of course, the fact that all of the OB/GYNs currently working at the clinic – all of whom fly in from out of state – are board-certified hasn’t seemed to made an impression on these politicians, who have not been shy about also stating their opposition to abortion. Mims has said, “My hope is that the women that are making these choices will now choose life, that they will realize that life begins at conception,” and he’s far from the only prominent abortion opponent supporting the law. As the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health, pointed out,

“Supporters of the measure have made it abundantly clear the regulations were intended to shut the clinic down:

  • Governor Phil Bryant, when vowing to sign the bill, said that he would “continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.”
  • The state’s Lt. Governor Tate Reeves stated that “the measure should effectively close Mississippi’s only abortion clinic” and “end abortion in Mississippi” when the bill passed the state Senate in April.
  • State Senator Merle Flowers told reporters that “There’s only one abortion clinic in Mississippi. I hope this measure shuts that down.”
  • State Representative Bubba Carpenter recently told a group of local county Republicans that “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and that “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

Moral values, Bubba? Like ensuring that no woman living in Mississippi will be able to obtain safe, legal healthcare within state lines? And doing so with such a cavalier disregard for their health and well-being? That’s not moral. That’s not even in the same universe as moral. That’s pushing an agenda designed to interfere in private, protected health decisions – which actually seems pretty darn immoral.


Pro-Choice News Roundup

The Real Impact of a 20-Week Abortion Ban. Feministing.

Mississippi Abortion Ban May Force State’s Only Clinic to Close. Huffington Post

Anti-Abortion Grandpa Facing Lawsuit.

Adrienne Rich, Poet of Change. The American Prospect.

Explosion at Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin. MSNBC.



Pro-Choice News Roundup

Mississippi Personhood Amendment Fails. Newsy

Women out in front in defeat of Initiative 26. Hattiesburg American.

Defeating Personhood: A Critical but Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice. RH Reality Check.

FemPop’s Guide to Sexism in Gaming Forums. FemPop.

Michigan Attorney General seeks closure of two abortion clinics. Detroit Free Press.

Mondays with Marlo: Gloria Steinem. Huffington Post.

Mississippi Roundup

Next Tuesday is voting day, and voters in Mississippi have a huge decision to make with Initiative 26. I thought that instead of making my own arguments about why “personhood” initiatives are whack, I’d just share some links to what other folks have said about what is at stake in Mississippi.

How the Push to Redefine Personhood Could Hurt Women – Washington Post
Saying No in Mississippi: No to Personhood, No to Voter Restrictions – On the Issues
Initiative 26 and Personhood: A Lesson in Deductive Reasoning – National Women’s Political Caucus
Why I’m Glad My Miscarriages Wasn’t in Mississippi – Ms.

For a really thorough explanation of why personhood amendments are a terrible idea for reproductive health, check out The War on Choice by Gloria Feldt. Gloria does an excellent job of talking about the legal precedent these kind of laws would set, and how it would severely restrict access to reproductive health care.

Mississippi Politicians Seek to Amend Women’s Rights

Sometimes when I’m having a stressful day at work, I’ll spend five (or fifteen) minutes looking at pictures of adorable dogs on The Daily Puppy or Cute Overload. If I happen to be working at home on a particularly stressful day, I go one better and spend an inordinate amount of time staring at, playing with, and generally annoying my perpetually sleepy and rumpled Shih Tzu. But look at that picture – can you really blame me?

After reading about Mississippi’s proposed Amendment 26, which would define a fertilized egg as a legal person, I had to wonder if that state’s legislators were taking a similar routine a bit too far. After all, babies are cute, and staring at pictures of babies is a fun distraction from a crappy economy, so why not just talk about babies and hypothetical babies all the time instead of actually working to improve our country’s myriad problems, pretty much none of which have anything to do with private decisions about pregnancy? [Read more...]

Defending The Help

Like millions of other women, I read The Help for a book group. I enjoyed the book and appreciated that it led to a spirited discussion of its strengths and weaknesses among the women in my group. But in the year and a half since I read the book, I didn’t really give The Help a second thought. And then the film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s book, also called The Help, came out, and quickly racked up both impressive box office receipts and a slew of controversy.

While each critique is different, the main objections appear to present a sanitized, stereotyped view of race relations; that it glosses over a particularly turbulent and dangerous part of the Civil Rights movement; that both the book and movie focus on white experiences and, indeed, that the book was written by a white woman; and that the highest-profile, female-driven movie of the year only depicts black women as maids.

I’ve undoubtedly left out other accusations, but you get the idea: for a movie that’s just a little over two hours, it sure carries a heavy burden of expectations. In part, this can be explained by the fact that the film is based on a best-selling novel, and its casting and filming was pretty heavily covered in the press (well, the entertainment press, at least). But there’s also the fact that female ensemble movies are few and far between, particularly ones that have black women in lead roles. Reading all the criticisms of the film, it’s hard not to think that people are projecting their own hopes of what they want a movie about black women in the 1960s South to look like, and that it’s the inability to meet these expectations that’s driving the backlash. But to expect any one movie, particularly one made by a mainstream Hollywood studio, to be all things to all people is unrealistic.  [Read more...]

Watch List: The Last Abortion Clinic

h_primaryWant to watch a quick documentary that explains the state of reproductive rights in the US? Click on over to Frontline’s website and watch “The Last Abortion Clinic.” PBS has done an excellent job of producing this film, and it actually presents a very balanced view.

“The Last Abortion Clinic” is set in Mississippi and looks at the legislation that has been passed curtailing access to abortion in the state. At the time of the movie’s creation, there was only one abortion clinic left in Mississippi. Anti-choice laws have gradually made it impossible for clinics to operate. First there was the legislation that required clinics to be registered as outpatient surgical centers. Then there was the 24-hour waiting period. Then there was the mandatory “counseling” script that providers had to give to patients before they could perform services. All of these laws have had a devastating effect on reproductive rights, and the bills’ sponsors are very clear about their intentions: they want to shut down the abortion clinics and test the “undue burden standard” in order to overturn Roe v. Wade

The “undue burden standard” was a result of the 1992 Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Supreme Court ruled in Casey that states could place restrictions on access to abortion so long as the restrictions did not pose an “undue burden” for women. Casey explicitly rejected the trimester framework that was established in Roe v. Wade and caused a new wave of legislation to test the limits of the undue burden standard. The Supreme Court was intentionally vague in defining the standard. And now the question for pro-choice advocates is how many women have to be effected before the Court says that the obstacles are an undue burden? [Read more...]