The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away an emergency application asking it to block a Texas law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
The decision was effectively 5 to 4 and split along ideological lines.
The effect of the ruling, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the four dissenters, was to leave 24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley without abortion clinics. “It may,” he added, “substantially reduce access to safe abortions elsewhere in Texas.”
A bill proposing a 20-week cut-off for terminating pregnancies in the State of Arkansas just passed the Arkansas House of Representatives. It is arbitrary and wrong.
Our first ultrasound happened at nineteen weeks, as is the case within most pregnancies. It is usually the first opportunity for doctors to diagnose serious problems. By the time we were seen by a specialist, we were past twenty weeks. Recently a coworker came to my wife in tears, sharing her story for the first time. Her own ultrasound had revealed her baby’s fatal kidney failure and she faced the same gut-wrenching decision.
The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.
Abbey, a nurse who comes from a conservative Christian family in Oklahoma, never labeled herself "pro-choice" or "pro-life." Now she pictures thrusting her sonogram and medical files at the lawmakers who voted for the abortion ban. "Would you let your own baby die slowly like that?" she would ask them. "If your wife was in these circumstances, would you force her to carry that baby?" She adds now, "I don't think I could have gone on any longer, and any woman who was forced to would have lost her mind."The article makes clear Arkansas's starring role in the battle to limit women's medical rights.
The constitutional implications aren't lost on Abbey, who emphasizes that she lives in Arkansas only because her husband is stationed there. She's also seen him through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. "I would have had to leave the state as a military spouse to get an abortion," Abbey says. "That seems unfair when I don't have a choice about where I live. I think it's unconstitutional, and my husband supports and defends the Constitution on a daily basis."Proud of our legislature yet?
There are also public-policy consequences. Half of the dozen states that have passed 20-week abortion bans—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas—are in the South, which has the highest poverty and uninsured rates and the lowest median incomes in the country, according to the Census Bureau. That means families in these states are among the most disadvantaged when it comes to caring for unwanted and disabled children. Arkansas, for example, ranks near the bottom in unintended and teen pregnancy rates (46th), number of doctors per resident (44th), and public health as measured by obesity, smoking, and diabetes (48th), according to data from nonprofit organizations and the federal government. Nearly one in five people in Arkansas have no health insurance. About the same proportion are living below the federal poverty line.
Rapert, an ordained minister and the owner of a financial-services company, doesn't sugarcoat his view of women's motives in seeking abortion. "America, quit using abortion as birth control," he admonished during an interview in his legislative office.
The court cited "clear and convincing evidence" that Kline committed 11 violations of attorney conduct rules while investigating abortion clinics as attorney general and for his role in a grand jury investigation while serving as Johnson County district attorney.
"Ultimately, we unanimously conclude the weight of the aggravating factors—i.e., Kline's inability or refusal to acknowledge the line between overzealous advocacy and operating within the bounds of the law and his professional obligations; his selfish motives; and his lengthy and substantial pattern of misconduct—weigh more heavily than the mitigating factors and merit his indefinite suspension," the court wrote in its opinion.
The court's findings against Kline, who served as Kansas attorney general from 2003 to 2007, stem from a complaint first filed against him in 2010. As TPM reported at the time, Kline was accused of "dispatching staff to record license plates of women entering George Tiller's abortion clinic, getting records from a motel where patients stayed, and obtaining state medical files under false pretenses, then retaining them after his term as AG was over and repeatedly lying about it in court." These alleged actions occurred during Kline's pursuit of Tiller, who ran Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, Kan., and who was shot to death in 2009.
A Kansas law that allows a relatively small group of citizens to call a grand jury to investigate suspected criminal conduct, intended to help Kansans prosecute powerful politicians who might otherwise never be held accountable, was used against George. He was accused of violating Kansas' late-term abortion laws. He was acquitted. This law was never meant to be used to persecute individuals who were lawfully involved in activities that religious fundamentalists found sinful. I am glad Jehovah's Witnesses never became a major force in this country or physicians providing blood transfusions to dying patients might have come under attack in Kansas.
So while pro-life Americans spend millions of dollars on events geared toward making abortion illegal, there were 1.16 million women who came to the conclusion in 2009 (a figure that has steadily decreased since the 1990s) that they could not carry their child to term – many of them because of money. The money spent on the March for Life alone could pay for prenatal care for around 6,600 women, or prenatal vitamins for nearly 250,000..
Even if those who participate in the March for Life were able to successfully revoke the legality of abortion in the US, or substantially limit the time in which women can obtain an abortion, statistics indicate that it wouldn’t necessarily protect the unborn. The Guttmacher Institute’s statistics show that abortion rates are higher in countries where it is illegal and procedures are often unsafe.
Even more disheartening are statistics from the Turnaway Study done by The University of California, San Francisco, which showed that women who sought abortions and were turned away (because they had passed their state's gestational limits) were three times more likely to fall into poverty than women who obtained an abortion
“Some people have said I’ve broken the law, which I may have done,” said Hanes, while seated in his office surrounded by family photos and Civil War-era paraphernalia, as well as an 1857 newspaper clipping advertising Abraham Lincoln’s legal services. “But I’ve broken an unconstitutional law.”
The first-time freshman ACT composite score rose to 23.3, a full three points higher than the state of Arkansas mark of 20.2 and well above the national average of 20.9. Arkansas State’s first-time freshmen also had a record-high 3.43 average high school GPA.
Here's the reality of the Republican war on women's reproductive rights:
At an open-air flea market outside McAllen, Texas, near the Mexican border, shoppers can buy a goat and get their car windows tinted. Tables with handwritten signs touting Viagra are stocked with herbal remedies promising to burn fat and boost breast size. You can also find pills to end a pregnancy.
Bazaars like this have become home to a thriving black market, where women too poor to afford an abortion at a clinic or deterred by state mandates such as a 24-hour waiting period can buy drugs to induce a miscarriage on their own, a dozen area residents and doctors said in interviews.
The Republican leadership ruled she'd failed to observe arcane rules on germaneness of comments and receiving assistance (a colleague adjusted her back brace). There was a challenge to the ruling. And all hell broke loose in a gallery packed by pro-choice supporters of Davis. But the big news was finagling with the official record by someone on the anti-choice side. The final vote clearly came after the midnight deadline. The record was changed to make it appear it made the deadline. Finally, the presiding officer declared the bill hadn't passed because he hadn't signed it in time. Naturally, the Republican blamed it on the ruckus in the gallery, not the simple fact that the deadline was missed.
It's a short-lived victory. In due course, the Texas legislature with its overwhelming Republican majority will be back in session and pass this legislation and/or worse.
Hats off to Wendy Davis.
For greater detail, the Texas Tribune is the place. The link takes you to their summary, but their live blog chronicled events through the night.
A.G.'s must defend state laws. But there's some irony in this case because McDaniel is pro-choice as a matter of political preference. In 2011, his office often made it clear where proposed anti-abortion law strayed from clear federal court precedent. He was much quieter in 2013 in the face of the new Republican anti-abortion majority. Republicans went easier on his office as a result once it became clear he'd vigorously defend whatever woman-punishing legislation they approved.
A federal judge has enjoined the 12-week ban law and is certain to permanently enjoin it after trial. But there's a lingering question. Can a portion of that law, included to provide the ground for the abortion ban, still stand? That is the part that requires any woman seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound test and to require that a doctor give the woman information on the likelihood of the fetus' survival if a heartbeat is detected.
Sadly, such invasive laws — designed to create an emotional roadblock for a woman who's already made the decision to obtain an abortion — have been upheld. So McDaniel is right when the state argued this week that that part of the law should stand even if the abortion ban is struck down. ACLU lawyers will attempt to argue that the mandatory ultrasound is not severable, because it was integral to the purpose of the law now preliminarily held to be unconstitutional. That's going to be a tough fight to win because the judge has already indicated her inclination to preserve it.
The state's pleading said:
"The informed consent provisions of Act 301 do not have the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking a pre-viability abortion, and the informed consent provisions further legitimate interests of the state. The informed consent provisions are constitutional as a matter of well-settled law."
No and yes. The ultrasound test and "informed consent" provision are PRECISELY intended to place an obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. But, yes, the courts have allowed such incursions on women's rights.
This decision is worthy of note because the same elements in the Arkansas legislature that want to end a woman's right to choose abortion also want to strip public funding — including that not related to abortion — from Planned Parenthood.
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Indiana's defense of a law that would ban all Medicaid money to an organization such as Planned Parenthood whose work includes performing abortions.
Legislation to end state funding for some sex education in Little Rock was one of the few anti-abortion bills that failed in this year's legislative session. It passed the Senate, but failed to clear a divided House committee. Given this case, that committee might have saved Arkansas some more money from bad law, such as one abortion bill already enjoined by a federal court and another heading in that direction.
The Indiana law had much broader impact, however than that being considered in Arkansas. An appeals court had ruled that the law "excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.
It's about the proliferation of abortion bans beginning at 20 weeks of pregnancy, such as Arkansas just passed. It aims at a tiny number of abortions, she notes — just a few dozen a year in Arkansas. Advocates base the laws, she writes,
...on junk science based on the pseudoscience of fetal pain to warrant the state laws prohibiting third trimester abortions. Their claims stem from erroneous assertions that the fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, despite several comprehensive literature reviews demonstrating no credible evidence of fetal pain until the third trimester. Likewise, the case for “fetal pain” rests on the argument that the rights of the fetus should take precedence over the civil rights of the mother.
One of many other problems, is that late abortions are inevitably the product of grave medical problems. Sometimes, they can't be known until after 20 weeks.
While ultrasounds administered prior to 20 weeks are generally adequate to assess major organ systems, they fail to detect major cardiac, skeletal, and craniofacial anomalies, particularly those that are lethal to the fetus.
The Arkansas law provides no exceptions for these cases or for rape and incest victims. It was passed over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, who said it was unconstitutional because it banned abortions at a time before a fetus could survive outside the womb, in clear contradiction of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
For many families who have never dealt with the trauma of fetal anomalies, it may seem difficult to understand why third term abortions are necessary. But when abortion care is restricted at 20 weeks, women are often forced to carry nonviable fetuses, often to term. In the case of lethal fetal anomalies, this requirement means countless appointments, treatments, tests, and conversations about the imminent death of their fetus, inflicting preventable trauma on families who want to carry a healthy fetus to term.
You may remember a gripping first-person account of this situation in the Times during the legislative debate. It went unheeded by most Arkansas legislators. Other points by Corrigan:
* STRESS: The restrictive laws put enormous psychological burdens on families, as well as the physical stress on forcing a mother to carry a fetus to term without likelihood of survival of the fetus.
* DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT: Economic circumstances mean poor and minority are less likely to get early medical intervention.
* REJECTION OF SCIENCE: Climate change anyone? Creation science?
The reliance on junk science instead of data on fetal anomalies leads to laws that ignore double-blind, peer-reviewed science in favor of laws that punish women and doctors unnecessarily. These laws complicate the ability of doctors to provide timely and complete prenatal care for women and they elevate the fetus, regardless of viability, over the rights of women and their families.
...Legislation prohibiting access to reproductive health care at any arbitrary point alienates women from the policymaking process by objectifying them and attempting to erode their right to physical autonomy by privileging the fetus over the needs of the mother.
The 20-week bans have been struck down in several states. As yet, the Arkansas law has not been challenged. It will be, when a woman in desperate straits finds her highly personal and scientifically rooted desire to end a pregnancy comes up against Arkansas religious preference, masquerading as science. Lawyers are at work drafting the necessary request for an injunction, which, inevitably, will be granted as others have been. As a judge wrote in Idaho:
The State’s clear disregard of this controlling Supreme Court precedent and its apparent determination to define viability in a manner specifically and repeatedly condemned by the Supreme Court evinces an intent to place an insurmountable obstacle in the path of women seeking non-therapeutic abortions of a nonviable fetus at and after twenty weeks’ gestation.
As a result of what Dr. Joycelyn Elders once memorably called a "love affair with the fetus," Mississippi has embarked on a path to prosecute some women in cases of stillbirth or miscarriage. The perverse effect — if the state is successful — would be to encourage more women to seek legal abortions.
The point — though not supported by medical authorities — is to punish women for using drugs while pregnant. What's next, a judge and critics have asked. Cigarettes? Unpasteurized milk? Obesity?
Mother Jones reports. Mississippi's effort is seen as a backdoor way to achieve "personhood" for even a fertilized egg. The article notes that laws nominally passed to allow prosecution of others for harming a woman's fetus have often been used against the pregnant woman.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the Arizona law that put a ban on abortions beginning with the 20th week of pregnancy.
This is good news for abortion rights generally, though not necessarily in Arkansas since we are in a different judicial circuit. But it should give some ammunition to fire at the new Arkansas ban on abortions at 20 weeks, a law that takes effect this summer. Legal action is being planned on that Arkansas law, but it presents more difficulties than the 12-week ban, recently enjoined by federal Judge Susan Webber Wright.
Very few abortions are performed in Arkansas at 20 weeks or later (50 in 2011 according to state statistics) and they are not routinely provided by the centers that provide most of the abortions in the state, many of them medicine-induced abortions at the early stage of pregnancy. So the abortion providers who are plaintiffs in the 12-week suit aren't readily suited to be plaintiffs in the 20-week case, Most likely, a Jane Doe will be necessary and time will be critical, particularly to the woman, since surgical abortions provided late in pregnancy are invariably prompted by a serious medical condition of the woman or the fetus.
Arizona tried to use the same defense for its 20-week law that anti-abortionists cooked up in Arkansas for the 12-week ban. Because the law allows some exceptions, it doesn't amount to a "ban. But the 9th Circuit rejected that reasoning, saying the law still banned many abortions before viability, or the time the fetus could live outside the womb. That is prohibited by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. So far.
Hard to see how these same words from the 9th Circuit wouldn't apply in Arkansas:
The panel reversed the district court’s order denying declaratory and injunctive relief to plaintiffs and held that the Constitution does not permit the Arizona legislature to prohibit abortion beginning at twenty weeks gestation, before the fetus is viable.
The panel held that under controlling Supreme Court precedent, Arizona may not deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at any point prior to viability. The panel held that Arizona House Bill 2036, enacted in April 2012, effects such a deprivation by prohibiting abortion from twenty weeks gestational age through fetal viability. The panel held that the twenty-week law is therefore unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe v. Wade and ending with Gonzales v. Carhart.
Concurring, Judge Kleinfeld stated that the current state of the law compelled him to concur, and that what controls this case is that the parties do not dispute that the twenty week line Arizona has drawn is three or four weeks prior to viability.
Letterman had a great top 10 list last night--as sung by Josh Groban. "Top Ten…
oh, very little steven, you such a writer of totally unedited incorrectness. I still say…
And which alma does David Bercaw call mater?
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