Ohio Anti-Choicers Resurrect Heartbeat Bill

Less than a week after Barack Obama won Ohio in the presidential election, state Republicans have decided that there’s no time like the present to resurrect a controversial, possibly unconstitutional, and already-rejected bill that would sharply restrict abortions.

The so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected—which can be as early as 18 days in some pregnancies, or before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant. When the state’s House Health Action Committee first heard testimony on the proposed bill, two of the witnesses to “testify” were fetuses: that is, two pregnant women were given ultrasounds in the hearing room. [Read more...]

Do Not Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum
“Do Not Let the Bastards Grind You Down” -Chapter 9, The Handmaid’s Tale

Motion 312, or M-312 is a private member’s bill proposed by Conservative backbencher Stephen Woodworth asking for the appointment of a twelve member special committee to review Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code for the purpose of examining existing medical evidence to demonstrate whether or not a child is a human being before ‘complete birth,’ the legal impact and consequences on the human rights of a ‘child’ before the moment of ‘complete birth’ and what options are available to amend or replace Subsection 223(1), which has thus far serviced our Criminal Law more than adequately for several hundred years.

Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code was written as part of British Common Law and states that:

223. (1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not
(a) it has breathed;
(b) it has an independent circulation; or
(c) the navel string is severed.
Marginal note: Killing child

(2) A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.

[Read more...]

The Santorum Double Standard

With the way the Republican presidential campaign is going, it’s entirely possible that Rick Santorum will have dropped out of the race by the time this article runs. Yet before his third-place finish in the South Carolina primary, Santorum had been making a lot of news for his personal experience with terminating a pregnancy.

In 1996, the then-nineteen weeks pregnant Karen Santorum had undergone surgery to address a fetal kidney malfunction. Following the operation, she developed an infection, and the Santorums had to make the difficult choice of terminating the pregnancy, or risking Karen’s life. By all accounts they made the decision together, and Karen was given medication to induce labor.

Rick Santorum is stridently anti-choice. He has signed the Personhood Pledge; he opposes Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that legalized birth control. Santorum considers late-term abortion procedures “medically unnecessary,” and opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape; incest; if the fetus has no chance of surviving to full-term; and if a woman’s life is threatened by continuing the pregnancy.   [Read more...]

U.S. Catholic Bishops Announce Plans to Expand Spiritual Post-Abortion Counseling

At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday, officials announced plans to expand Project Rachel, the post-abortion “healing” ministry of the Catholic Church. Despite a comprehensive study by the American Psychological Association in 2008 providing evidence to the contrary, Project Rachel asserts that women suffer psychological implications post-abortion. Reuters reports:

The move came a day after the bishops said religious freedom had been whittled away by same-sex marriage, abortion and healthcare legislation, and vowed to ramp up efforts to protect it.

Officials at the annual meeting said two new pilot projects based in Boston and Washington would train priests in building more Project Rachel ministries around the country.

[Read more...]

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...]

When Wombs Speak Louder Than Words

Next week, anti-choice activists bring the latest assault on reproductive rights to Washington, D.C. On October  13, the “Voices from the Womb” tour will set up shop at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, offering both the public and members of Congress the chance to stop by and watch ultrasounds being performed on women in their first, second, or third trimester of pregnancy. The purpose of this  The purpose of this fetal theater is allegedly to show the truth about abortion. What is that truth, you ask? Oh, just that an ultrasound image is so powerful, it erases all doubt that life begins at conception, establishes the personhood and humanity of a fetus, thereby giving the fetus protection under the 14th Amendment, and calls the very legality of Roe v. Wade into question.

This isn’t exactly a new strategy, but it’s still worth taking a closer look at. In a nutshell, the 14th Amendment was established after the Civil War to give ex-slaves full rights; it establishes the citizenship of any person born or naturalized in the U.S., guarantees that U.S. citizens have procedural and substantive due process, and grants citizens equal protection of the laws. Arguably the most single important part of the Constitution, this amendment has been essential for safe-guarding individual rights.

If fetuses are established as people from the moment of conception, the anti-choice argument goes, then they are granted the same rights and protections as any other citizen, and the validity of Roe would be called into question. Of course, this push to grant fetuses equal personhood ignores the multitude of difficult legal and ethical issues that would also arise – in particular, in regards to stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, and contraceptive use. While it’s no great surprise that such issues don’t seem to trouble anti-choicers, these considerations are just some of the reasons that stunts like Voices from the Womb should concern anyone that values their right to make their own decisions about birth control, to say nothing of their reproductive freedom.  [Read more...]

Outlawing the Pill, One State at a Time

In today’s “whaaaaaaaaaaaat!?” news, fringe anti-abortion group Personhood USA is pushing for a legal redefinition of personhood in which life would begin the very moment sperm fertilizes an egg, even before the embryo would have an opportunity to implant into the woman’s uterus. The effect of such a (ridiculous) redefinition? Contraception, like the Pill, could be outlawed.

Think Progress explains,

These laws would recognize every fertilized egg as an individual and complete human being with full rights, and place millions of women in legal jeopardy. According to 2008 numbers, around 11 million American women use birth control pills and another 2 million use intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Contraceptives like the pill and IUDs not only act to prevent fertilization, but, if fertilization does occur, may prevent that fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Personhood USA considers this tantamount to abortion, and wants to make it a punishable offense for women to control their own fertility. Worse, because the proposed legislation could make any effort to terminate a pregnancy a criminal act, it could also bar doctors from saving the lives of women with ectopic pregnancies, which are never viable and need to be terminated as soon as possible.

[Read more...]

Reading Roe v. Wade

In anticipation of starting law school in the fall, I’ve been reading famous US Supreme Court decisions. Have you ever read the ROE v. WADE, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) decision? It is more interesting than I would have thought. Not only did the court look at the history of restrictions on abortion dating back to the Greeks and Romans including an analysis of the The Hippocratic Oath, they defined the idea of “personhood” and determined that the Ninth and Fourteenth amendments implied privacy rights extend to abortion, but only up to a point.

Definition of Personhood

The Constitution does not define “person” in so many words. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains three references to “person.”  All three refer to a person after live birth. “All this, together with our observation, supra, that throughout the major portion of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word “person,” as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn”  (Title IX).

The Rights of Privacy Extend to Abortion

“This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” (Section VIII)   [Read more...]

Anti-Choice Legislation Across the Country

The week of March 14 saw several states passing anti-choice laws, and a potential 2010 ballot initiative in Colorado.

In Kentucky, a bill that would require in-person counseling 24 hours and an ultrasound prior to an abortion stalled in the House. The state Senate voted in favor of the bill in late January; last month, the measure received a tie vote in the House’s Health and Welfare Committee, marking the fourth time the bill had failed to move out of a House committee. Pro-choice advocates are concerned that the requirement will create additional burdens to accessing abortion care.

Idaho’s House of Representatives approved a “conscience bill,” which would allow health care professionals to refuse access to contraception, abortion, and end-of-life treatment. Written by abortion opponents and sponsored in the House by Rep. Tom Loertscher (R-Iona), the measure has already been passed by the Senate and now goes to Governor C.L. Otter for final approval. The measure’s opponents fear that the bill would intrude into private decisions, as well as conflict with current laws regarding medical treatment.

Idaho politicians also decided to follow in the steps of anti-choice legislators in Georgia, introducing a bill that would ban race- or sex-selective abortions. Rep. Steve Kren introduced the bill, saying, “It’s not something that I know of that is a problem, but it is something I feel we should protect against.” Arizona, Mississippi, and New Jersey are considering similar legislations. Opponents of the bill contend that it violates both individual clinics’ First Amendment rights and a woman’s right to privacy, as well as placing an undue burden on providers. [Read more...]