Nel's New Day

February 12, 2017

People Use Religion to Disrespect Women’s Rights

Yesterday’s marches against Planned Parenthood again ignored that federal money doesn’t go to abortions whereas the government spends hundreds of billions of dollars to kill people around the world—many of them innocent—and conservatives are determined to kill people through air and water pollution. These pro-life people are willing to kill anyone except what they consider the “unborn” and abuse children after they are born. Yet they use the bible as their justification for a woman’s choice regarding her own body because conservatives believe women aren’t smart enough to make the right choice for themselves.

A few facts from their bible:

God defined a potion for abortion potion: “May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”—Numbers 5:22-27

God fines the killing of a fetus but puts to death the person killing a woman: “And if men strive together, and hurt a pregnant woman, so that her fruit [children] come out, and yet no harm follows; the one who hit her shall surely be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall impose upon him; and he shall pay a fine as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth ….” —Exodus 21:22-23

God defines a person through the ability to breathe: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7

The bible’s opinion of women:

A wife is man’s property: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” —Exodus 20:17

Girl babies are twice as unclean as boys: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days …. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks. —Leviticus 12:1-8

Women should keep silent:  “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” —1 Cor. 14:34

A raped daughter must be sold to her rapist: ““If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” —Deut. 22:28-29

Women must cover their hair—like the Muslim hijab: “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” —I Cor. 11:6

Women should be forced to have children: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”—1 Tim. 2:15

Women make men dirty: “[Those redeemed from the earth] are those who did not defile themselves with women.” —Revelation 14:4

Opinions from revered church leaders:

“Woman is a temple built over a sewer.” –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. …” –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

“[Women’s] very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.”–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215)

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. … Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

“Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband…. For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.” –John Dod: A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

“A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” – Official Faith and Message Statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)

“The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands.” –James Fowler: Women in the Church, 1999.

People who use the bible—“God’s word”—to justify their treatment of people, including eliminating reproductive rights for women,  often also say that no one should take the words in the bible literally. According to Matthew 13:13:

“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

People who try to limit others by quoting the bible should follow their own advice and not bully others with their personal religion.

Fortunately, many people in the United States agree with this position. Counter-protests yesterday were much larger than the anti-abortion activists outside Planned Parenthood to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. Those attending the rallies talked about how much Planned Parenthood does for health—birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, counseling, etc. Medicaid funds pay for these health services for both men and women. Last month, Donald Trump banned U.S. funding to any international group that even provides information about abortions. Cutting funds for Planned Parenthood would cause 400,000 women to lose access to health care.

Oregon senators, in support of women, are working on a bill to require Oregon insurance companies to cover reproductive health care services. The Reproductive Health Equity Act, HB 2232, would cover all services under the current Affordable Care Act as well as abortion. The bill goes to the House first to address questions and clarify language. At this time, the measure has an exemption that protects religious beliefs.

Illinois advocates are supporting HB 40 to guarantee reproductive care services, including abortion, for all enrolled in Medicaid, something available only in 17 other states.

New Mexico lawmakers have introduced three bills to improve reproductive health access and rights: preserve birth control access, allow women to obtain one year of contraceptive medication at a time, penalize medical providers who refuse reproductive health services, and mandate “reasonable accommodations: for pregnant women in the workplace. Hospitals would not be permitted to “limit or otherwise interfere” with a doctor’s “independent professional judgment” in providing reproductive health information, referrals, and procedures “where a failure to provide” them “would violate the medical standard of care owed to the patient.”

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed an amendment to the state constitution that protects abortion rights as outlined in Roe v. Wade.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved a bill prohibiting discrimination based on reproductive decisions or pregnancy with a limited exemption for religious institutions but not for business owners who use religion to object.

Respect for women means respecting our rights–all of them.

December 16, 2016

 The Return of the Coat Hanger: The State of Abortion Rights

coat-hanger

When Gov. John Kasich vetoed the infamous “heartbeat” bill, people across the nation breathed a sigh of relief. If signed, the ensuing law would have made abortion illegal in Ohio after the sixth week when some women didn’t even know they were pregnant. The bill he did sign into law, making abortion in the state illegal after 20 weeks, seemed mild by comparison. The 1972 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortions legal until 24 weeks, 4 weeks later than Ohio, yet the Ohio’s restriction to 20 weeks initially seemed much better than the alternative.

The new Ohio law is dangerous, however, on many levels. Not only does it attempt to break Roe v. Wade, but it also puts doctors in prison. Performing an abortion after 20 weeks is a fourth-degree felony, carrying a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. A 2013 Ohio law imprisons people who commit fourth- and fifth-degree felonies for a first time offense. Doctors disagree with Kasich’s new law: a group of ob-gyns wrote:

“Continuation of these pregnancies abortions [after identification of serious and fatal birth defects] would result in certain death of the baby and expose the newborn to needless pain. Meanwhile the mother is forced to carry the fetus to term and may be exposed to a myriad of medical and reproductive risks.”

Kasich and his legislators ignored the doctors’ plea.

That’s where the coat hangers come in. In the late 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, pro-choice activists used this object as a symbol of choice because women would use this sharp object as their only option. It caused horrible pain, sometimes permanent damage, and even death, but some women felt it was their only solution. On December 10, 2016—16 years into the 21st century—protesters to Ohio’s anti-abortion bills hung several hundred wire hangers on the fence of the state capitol. More people came and added more hangers. They were taken down during that night, but the protesters can back the next day and replace them.

Coat hangers went to court at a 1972 hearing of Abele v. Markle from a lawsuit from 350 women challenging Connecticut’s anti-abortion statute and influencing the judicial opinions of Roe v. Wade. The women in the courtroom brought babies and hangars; they left their hangars. In a 1969 demonstration in Washington, D.C., over 300,000 protesters hung coat hangers around their necks and carried signs reading “Never again” as they marched.

Many people unaware of the meaning of coat hangers can learn from the case of Anna Yocca, 32, who was charged in a Tennessee court last year for trying to abort a 24-week fetus with a coat hanger. Abortion is legal at 24 weeks, but she still sits in jail and faces new felony charges: aggravated assault, an attempt to procure a miscarriage, and an attempted criminal abortion. Only four of Tennessee’s 95 counties have clinics that provide abortions, and Yocca does not live in one of these.

Yocca is not unique: Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year after she took medication to terminate her pregnancy. In other states, women have been charged with attempted feticide for falling down stairs, not wearing a seatbelt, and trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Other women throughout the country have also gone to jail for terminating their pregnancy.

Thirty-eight states have feticide laws; many of these were intended to protect pregnant women. Anything that a pregnant woman does can probably result in criminal charges if police determines that it may damage a fetus in any way. Doctors can’t tell the difference between a self-induced abortion or a natural miscarriage, leaving women subject to interrogation, arrest, and even incarceration. Poverty and poor nutrition can become reasons for imprisonment.

cpr-map

 

The week before DT won the presidential election, seven states—Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas—sent $30 million of federal funding intended to stop poverty to Crisis Pregnancy Centers that lie to pregnant women about the effects of abortion and refuse to refer them to legitimate women’s clinics. They also provide no other health care that Planned Parenthood does.

The courts are providing some help:

  • A federal judge ruled that Mississippi cannot deny Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because of their affiliation with abortion services, keeping almost 700,000 state residents on Medicaid to a reliable healthcare provider.
  • The Virginia Board of Health voted 11-to-4 to remove the unconstitutional outpatient surgical center building requirements imposed on clinics that perform abortions. It is the first state to comply with Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruling to overturn surgical center and admitting privilege requirements, known as TRAP, passed by many states.
  • A federal court blocked two Alabama abortion restrictions.
  • The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center opened in Oklahoma City, the first new abortion clinic since 1974. Until the clinic opened, the city was the only major metropolitan area in the country with no abortion provider. It joins two other providers in the state.
  • Memphis Center for Reproductive Health will open a new, comprehensive reproductive health clinic will house the Tennessee first freestanding birthing facility. It will also provide abortion, gynecological, mental health, and sexual/reproductive health care services.
  •  A Planned Parenthood clinic in Springfield (IL) will offer surgical abortion care.
  • South Carolina officials will drop regulations that target abortion clinics in the state.

Alaska must pay almost $1 million in legal fees incurred when Planned Parenthood and two Alaskan physicians fought the state’s unconstitutional parental notification law. Wisconsin had to pay $1.6 million to plaintiffs suing over the state’s admitting privilege law. North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri also had to reimburse the legal costs from fighting  unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. Other GOP states across the nation are also averaging $1 million out of their budgets to fight abortion rights.

Yet women have to keep fighting for reproductive rights. This month, Texas passed a law, already declared unconstitutional in Indiana and Louisiana, that requires burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages. A judge has already suspended the law until he hears testimony on January 6, 2017.

Texas is notable because its death rate from pregnancy complications doubled between 2010 and 2014. In 2011, Texas cut out more than 80 family planning clinics, including all Planned Parenthood clinics, across the state, and the other clinics could serve only half as many women as before the budget cuts in 2011. No other state saw the same death rate.

The word “abortion” raises so much emotion among people in the United States. Yet minor surgery to remove scar tissue after early miscarriages is classified in medical files as “abortions.” Basically, self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” are only interested in life until birth. After that children and their parents are on their own because, to quote HUD Secretary nominee Ben Carson, poverty is a choice. Republicans deny children health care, food, water, housing, air, education, and other “amenities” because life for the already born individuals is no longer their responsibility. And the upcoming years will result in more deprivation to children because President-elect Donald Trump is moving more money to the top 0.1 percent.

The year 2015 was considered the worst year for abortion restrictions until now. The upcoming year with a new administration promises to be worse. The last time an elected Republican cared about you was when you were a fetus.

June 6, 2016

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to Keep Women Pregnant

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are faith-based organizations, often not medically licensed, that try to keep women from having abortions. Their deceptive practices lure women to seek help by falsely promising to offer a full range of reproductive services, including abortions. Women who go to CPCs face intimidation and misleading, medically-disproved, ideologically-motivated information about abortion by staff who frequently lack any medical licenses but pretend to have them. In many states these bogus clinics outnumber abortion clinics, and many state governments funnel taxpayer money from medical facilities to CPCs. The nation has approximately 4,000 CPCs, three times as many as abortion clinics.

Last month, satirist Samantha Bee presented a segment showing the lies of CPCs from a woman who went to one. Cherisse Scott said she chose the CPC because it had the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages. This is what she was told:

“The nurse told me that if I had an abortion, my uterus would be perforated and I would not be able to have children. I ultimately decided to go ahead and have the baby because I didn’t want to chance not ever being able to have a baby.”

President and CEO of the National Abortion Foundation Vicki Saporta talked about how many CPCs also tell women that their risk of breast cancer will increase after having abortions or will suffer from PTSD. Saporta added that women are forced wait for hours while they are subjected to religious sermons and other propaganda. Other CPCs will also tell women that they can’t get results of pregnancy tests for weeks—stalling them until it’s too late for the women to get abortions. Studies show that over 50 percent of 32 CPCs give false information about abortion. CPCs do not offer medical services such as cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control. Their sole purpose is a counseling service based on guilt.

Amanda Marcotte wrote that another purpose behind CPCs is “to shame women for having sex and to spread stigma over abortion, contraception, and any non-procreative sexual activity.” That’s the reason that these sham facilities also fail to provide any way to prevent abortion such as contraception.

David Grimes wrote that CPCs also misinform women about “contraception and its relationship to sexually transmitted infections.” Eighty percent of 254 CPC-sponsored websites gave one or more false or misleading medical claims about abortion. Most of the websites with information about condoms or STIs discourage the use of condoms because condoms, websites claim, are ineffective in preventing infection. Only two percent of the CPCs “correctly cited the contraceptive effectiveness of condoms,” and only 9 percent “advocated correct and consistent [condom] use.” Grimes noted three unethical practices taking place at CPCs:     “[w]ithholding critical information or providing false information”; providing “[d]isinformation about the safety and efficacy of abortion”; and “disproportionately prey[ing] on those with limited education and resources.”

At this time, Texas is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling about the state’s massive reduction of abortion clinics. Another Texas issue is their reduction of Planned Parenthood funding. They falsely claim that the number of patients who accessed family planning services in the state in 2014 is at the same level as it was prior to funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. In 2011, the state legislature cut the family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, closing 76 of the state’s family clinics or ceasing family planning services. One-third of Texas women lacked a regularly health care provider in 2012, up from one-fifth in 2010.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. Yet the number of CPCs in Texas is growing from the boost in state funding. The state increased the Alternative to Abortion Services Program from $2.5 million in 2008 to $9.15 million in 2015. Texas has about 230 CPC; if the state wins its Supreme Court case it will have nine abortion clinics, ten percent from of the total from six years ago. Texas has 5.4 million women of reproductive age, and up to 240,000 women tried to give themselves abortions since the state started to close more abortion clinics in 2013. As in all other states, abortion is legal in Texas but highly inaccessible.

California is one state that tries to prevent CPCs from disseminating misleading information. The law mandates that licensed facilities providing services related to pregnancy and family planning must give women information about how and where they can access affordable and timely abortion, contraception, and prenatal care services. Unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services must tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Any digital or print advertising for unlicensed facilities must state, “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” CPCs have lost four of five legal challenges against the state law that went into effect January 1, 2016.

New York City and several antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have reached a settlement in a lawsuit challenging a 2011 ordinance to curb CPCs’ misinformation. U.S. District Judge William Pauley had blocked an ordinance requiring CPCs to disclose whether they offer abortion services, emergency contraception and prenatal care or refer for such services through postings in both English and Spanish in the centers and in ads as well as disclosing whether a medical provider was on site. Pauley’s ruling that the ordinance is “offensive to free speech principles” was partly overturned by a three-judge panel from the 2nd Circuit Court in 2014 that mandated disclosure of a licensed medical provider. The Supreme Court refused an appeal. In the world of abortion, allowing or requiring false information to be provided to pregnant women is “free speech.”

In Virginia, a CPC will move next door to a recently closed abortion clinic in Manassas. Women trying to go to the closed clinic are diverted to the CPC, and the telephone number for the former abortion clinic is redirected to the CPC. Women calling the number are required to endure a lengthy process for an appointment, causing them to miss the timeline for an abortion. Callers are asked several personal medical questions, but the information is not confidential because the CPC is not a legitimate medical provider. This practice is not uncommon.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University, an Oklahoma Christian university, is now considering a degree program, “applied ethics” that would  prepare students for “vocational work in pro-life apologetics, political consulting, or for an executive role” in the crisis centers. Jobs would most likely be available because of the tens of millions of federal and state dollars poured into CPCs.  Eleven states directly fund CPCs, and few states have any regulations, not required to comply with professional standards or malpractice laws.

Earlier this spring, Georgia’s governor signed a bill to create a funding program for CPCs. His excuse came from the fact that 96 percent of Georgia counties with 60 percent of the state’s women of reproductive age have no abortion clinics. Of the 70 CPCs in Georgia, 40 have medical licenses. The measure prohibits referrals to abortion providers, something that CPCs don’t do anyway. Proposed expenditures for these bogus centers is $2 million.

Pennsylvania paid Real Alternative over $30 million to support 98 religious sites for adoption, maternity agencies, and CPCs. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.   More horror stories here. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.

Mississippi has one abortion clinic and 38 known CPCs. The poorest U.S. state, it has abstinence-based sex education in public schools and one of the country’s highest teen pregnancy.The worst state may be South Dakota where all women seeking an abortion must first go to one of these CPCs.

If you want to know what’s happening in your state, go to this map and click on your state.

May 29, 2016

Samantha Bee, History of Anti-Abortion Movement

Jon Stewart’s disappearance from The Daily Show has left a great void in satirical—and educational—news on the comedy scene. Trevor Noah, the person sitting in Stewart’s chair, has openly declared that he won’t criticize the Fox network, and the only funny/educational pieces on his show come from his “correspondents.” Fortunately, Samantha Bee, formerly on The Daily Show, has a new show, Full Frontal, that more than fills in the gap. Although only weekly instead of Daily Shows’ four nights a week, it’s hard-hitting and direct, filled with information that many of us have missed. Last Monday’s show gave the background for the growth of the “pro-life before birth” movement.

Many people think that the evangelical right got riled because the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal in 1973. Bee gives the real reason. As Republican leaders worked to overturn the Democrats and make the United States a GOP dictatorship, they searched for an issue that would animate the Christian right into full-force political involvement. The first issue to coalesce right-wing Christians into a solid voting bloc was segregation. By the mid-1970s, however, that topic lost its popularity, and Paul Weyrich, founder of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, worked with preacher and Bible college founder Jerry Falwell to find another one. They hired up-and-coming SF filmmaker Frank Schaeffer to create the visual propaganda. The result was a film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, featuring his father, Francis Schaeffer, and future Surgeon General C. Everett Coop.

As Christina Cauterucci wrote:

“There are images of children with white faces painting in blood-red, baby dolls scattered on the shores of present-day Sodom; other baby dolls rolling down a conveyor into a garbage incinerator; and a real toddler crying in a cage, banging on the bars to escape. ‘Ten bucks says that kid is still ‘making films’ in the Valley,’ says Bee of the tot, who Schaeffer says was volunteered for the role by his California Christian parents.

“But the creepiest part of this early anti-abortion film fest is a cartoon Bee calls ‘Homeschool-house Rock.’ The video, made to screen at churches around the country to enlist them in a fight most evangelical leaders would have rather left to Catholics, shows evil doctors using hoses to suck up dancing fetuses wearing top hats and canes while scantily clad nurses drop-kick a series of swaddled infants. In the vein of so many propaganda films, it would seem like a hilarious parody if it weren’t such an effective, damaging piece of political messaging.”

anti abortion

Schaeffer has since expressed his regrets:

“One of the things that I did back in the day when I was young was help found, start, begin what became known as the ‘pro-life movement.’ It is the single greatest regret of my life.”

In a 2014 piece for Salon, Schaeffer wrote about the film series:

“We turned [the GOP] into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built. The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.”

The films didn’t make much of an impact on evangelicals at first.  Schaffer said, “They wanted to preach Jesus. They thought politics was dirty.” To turn the tide, former Rep. Jack Kemp put together 50 GOP congressmen to take on the cause and give it respectability. Bee has a clip of Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer who described the conference call in which GOP and evangelical leaders, including Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, held a conference call to discuss what they should mobilize around now that segregation was over.

Frank Schaeffer wrote about the plans from the 1970s:

“Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, ‘we’ would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majority on the Court to back them up.”

Schaeffer’s prescience is all too real—and horrifying. More details are available here.

Part of Bee’s seven-minute expose of the religious right hypocrisy explains that the Bible has no objection to abortion. By now, however, religious leader Jerry Falwell, praised by mainstream U.S. politicians, blames abortion for everything, including the 9/11 attacks. terrorist attack. In 2001, Falwell said, “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this, because God will not be mocked.”

The anti-abortion movement is actually less than a half-century old. Jonathan Dudley wrote in 2014:

“In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, Professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth: ‘God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

“The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, ‘The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.’ And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.”

Born-again Christians at that time believed that the legality of abortion flowed from Scripture, but in the late 1970s  the far-right developed a coalition with Catholics, who had long believed that life begins at conception. At the same time, they formed a common cause with Catholics on other topics such as feminism and homosexuality while re-interpreting the Bible to follow the Catholic position on abortion. In 1980, Jerry Falwell’s book declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.” Through dissemination of this interpretation on the television, the GOP was co-opted by the religious right. For the first time in its 43-year history, the publisher InterVarsity Press had to withdraw a book, Brave New People, in 1984 because it repeated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

Rick Warren repeated Jerry Falwell’s lies during the 2008 presidential election: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.” GOP presidential candidate John McCain had to change his position from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. Four years later, millions of evangelicals supported Mitt Romney, a Mormon, over Barack Obama because they had been brainwashed to believe that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion. Last year, Donald Trump switched from his longtime pro-choice position to his current position–as of today–that women should punish themselves if they have an abortion.

Jack Kemp may have physically died in 2009, but he lives on in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man who worships Kemp. Ryan’s first action after becoming Speaker was to appoint longtime pro-life advocate David Hoppe as his chief of staff. Since he took over from John Boehner, Ryan promoted pro-life until birth positions such as de-funding Planned Parenthood and banning abortions after 20 weeks. The Catholic leader of the House holds a 100-percent pro-life voting record and claims that he is “pro-life” because of “reason and science.” His proof is seeing a “seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child … in the shape of a bean.” He finished his speech while a vice-presidential candidate by saying, “Now I believe that life begins at conception…. The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions.”

Other radical of Ryan’s radical anti-abortion positions are shown in the bills that he co-sponsored or voted for in the House:

  • Allowing hospitals to deny women access to emergency abortion even if their life is in immediate danger.
  • Preventing victims of rape or incest from using Medicaid for abortion.
  • Denying women in the military to have an abortion at a military hospital except to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
  • Declaring that a fertilized egg should have the same legal rights as a human being. (Buried in his Ryan’s failed Fetus Rights Bill, aka Sanctity of Human Life Act  HR 23, was a section allowing a rapist to sue his victim to keep her from having an abortion. With the current fixation on pro-life until birth, the rapist would probably win the case.)

None of these positions is in the Bible, and none of them has anything to do with either “reason” or “science.” It’s just the popular position pushed on people by the Republicans a few decades ago in a cynical approach to take total control of the United States. And it’s the excuse that far-right fanatics use to openly kill people if their disagree with them.

May 2, 2016

Women Not Protected from Unintended Pregnancies Should Have the Right to Abortions

“No woman ever wants an abortion.” That was Michele Stranger-Hunter’s introduction to her talk about a program called “One Key Question” at a recent NOW meeting in Newport (OR). Yet women continue to obtain legal—and illegal—abortions throughout the United States because they are not protected from these pregnancies. Under ten percent of these abortions are because of health reasons for either or both of the pregnant woman and the fetus, and about 90 percent of all abortions are performed at under 13 weeks. Stranger-Hunter (below, left) is the executive director of the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon.

Michele Stranger-Hunter with Gloria Steinem

Because women don’t want to have abortions, it is vital to provide women of reproductive age to have access to contraception and an understanding of how to use the method that they use. Stranger-Hunter said that the Affordable Care Act “is the best thing that happened to women in my lifetime.” Yet

Stranger-Hunter said that her organization plans to push proactive legislation for women’s reproductive rights in Oregon’s 2017 legislative session. “No other state ever tries to help women,” she said. The group laid the foundation for these bills in 2015 for comprehensive women’s health and a basic health plan ensuring that everyone have equitable access to quality health care. As the group’s members worked with legislators who they had endorsed, however, they discovered that these lawmakers were unwilling to use the term abortion, and the group’s bill died. Since that time, Oregon NARAL’s PAC has revised its endorsement procedures to include only people willing to actually use the word “abortion” as shown by interviews and questionnaires. “We need legislators who will commit,” Stranger-Hunter said. In Oregon, 64 percent of the voters favor a bill that covers the full range of reproductive services, including abortion. Only 29 percent of voters disagree.

The “One Key Question” (OKQ) program began after research showed that doctors didn’t talk to women about birth control. That isn’t “just an Oregon thing,” Stranger-Hunter said. It happens all over the country. That may be one reason that one-half of all women will have had an unintended pregnancy by the age of 45. And half of all pregnancies are unintended.

Fertility is a “chronic condition,” said Stranger-Hunter. Women are fertile for 39 years and spend at least 30 of those years trying to avoid pregnancies. The poorer women are, the more unintended pregnancies (IP) they have. Of women in the 200+ poverty range, only 20 percent have an IP; 112 percent of the women under that level of wealth have IPs.

Pregnancies can be deadly for women in the U.S.: in a quarter of a century, maternal deaths from childbirth have increased 150 percent from 7.2 per 100,000 births in 1987 to 18.5 in 2013. At the same time, almost all the other countries in the world are seeing fewer maternal deaths. For every woman who dies from maternal deaths,  another 75 experience a near-fatal emergency during pregnancy or childbirth such as heart attacks, kidney failure or profuse bleeding—also increases in recent years.

Bad health care has been given as a major reason for these deaths and other disasters. Stranger-Hunter listed other reasons: physical abuse, depression, and emotional problems. Women’s health care is “fragmented,” many times between two doctors. Half of all fertile women are on medications for depression, and 10 to 15 percent of congenital birth problems come from these meds. About 98 percent of pregnancies among female opioid users are unintended.

While states introduce thousands of bills to make abortions harder to obtain, none of them is doing anything to fight maternal deaths by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The “One Key Question” program, while not legally mandated, is a beginning.

The goal of this program is to have every woman of reproductive age be asked “would you like to become pregnant in the next year?” Stranger-Hunter described this approach as a non-threatening approach that leads to a dialog with the health practitioner. Depending on the answer—yes, no, don’t know, or fine either way—the clinician can present suggestions for helping the woman successfully achieve her goal. With “yes” or “fine,” women can prepare her body for a healthy pregnancy and fetus by considering medications, taking folic acid, and knowing about other health options such as screening for infections and a dental check-up. “No” leads to a discussion of effective contraception and important information such as the 85 percent chance of becoming pregnant for sexual activity with men with no birth control. An answer of “don’t know” can lead to evaluating choices.

In Oregon, care providers for low-income women—home visiting staff, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization–are starting to routinely ask families One Key Question at intake. Questioners have found that patients, especially those who have little control over their lives because of poverty or abuse, like the wording that shifts the focus from long-term planning to immediate desires. National professional organizations are taking note as well, with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health expressing their support.

Michele Stranger-Hunter shows that just one woman can make a huge difference. The One Key Question program began from her fact-finding tour of hospitals and clinics across the state in 2009. Now 20 states are asking that question on a volunteer basis. Heavy reliance on computerization has kept some large medical groups from incorporating this question because it needs to be built into the electronic software. Legislatures, however, should put this concept into law: for ever $1 spent on family planning, $4 are saved. The cost barrier for many women’s contraceptives has been removed through the Affordable Care Act, but advances in birth control methods have made the woman’s decision more complicated.

OKQ won’t stop the need for all abortions, however. Contraception can fail, and health problems will continue to plague pregnant women and fetuses, especially with bad health care in many of the states across the nation. The biggest problem with legal abortion at this time is its inaccessibility. Fewer than one-fourth of the counties in Oregon have clinics that provide abortions, and these are largely along the I-5 corridor, requiring woman from smaller counties to travel long distances, sometimes hundreds of miles, and spend the night away from home. The abortion costs an average of $451 which is usually not paid by insurance. And Oregon is better off than the five other states that have only one clinic in the entire state and the huge state of Texas that is still trying to cut down to nine women’s clinics for its 5,404,124 women of reproductive age.

One help for women with lodging and transportation costs comes from the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health (OFRH) in the form of the Spring Adams Fund. It was started in 1989 after a 13-year-old girl in Boise (ID) was sexually abused by her father. The Idaho Health Department suggested Portland (OR) for a location where she could get an abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon found the funds to pay for transportation and lodging, but the night before Spring was scheduled to make the six-hour trip to Portland, her father shot and killed her in her bed. More information about this fund is here.

At this time, Oregon is the only state in the nation that has not passed anti-choice laws either through the legislature or the voter initiative process allowing individuals to put statutory and constitutional measures on the ballot. It may stay that way after a judge ruled that language in a proposed ballot measure from anti-choice Oregon Life Unified is too “fuzzy” and sent the initiative back to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for modification of the ballot initiative verbiage. The state supreme court ruled that the initiative must clearly state that its effect is to deny access to abortion care coverage to Oregon’s low-income residents. Reproductive advocates who petitioned the court argued that the proposed amendment to the state constitution would allow coverage only to women with private health insurance. Signatures for the necessary 117,578 are still being collected for the misnamed Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act of 2016.

Until every woman is protected from unintended pregnancies, all women should have the right to have access to abortions.

April 7, 2016

Lawmakers Rule Medical Advice for Women

In an interview on MSNBC, Donald Trump brought up the idea that women who seek abortions should be “punished.” The audience, women’s rights groups, and other politicians were incensed. How dare he say that!? The March for Life erroneously referred to women who gets abortions as “victims” and said that it was wrong to “punish” these women. There can’t be punishment for these women in such a free country as the United States! Oh no?!

In most states, women cannot get abortions from state health care, at least five states have each closed all except one clinic providing this service, a current case in the Supreme Court is considering whether to force women in Texas to drive at least 200 miles to a women’s clinic, and at least one state restricts abortions past 18 weeks. Women are forced to get and watch ultrasounds, wait up to three days, and listen to lies from doctors telling them the problems of having abortions such as cancer.

Just when rational people think that a state cannot come up with more punishment for women who have abortions, Indiana has thought of a few new wrinkles. Gov. Mike Pence has totally banned abortions if a women requests it because a fetus has Down syndrome or any other disorder. These defects could include the ones related to Zika virus, meaning that a woman would be forced to carry fetuses to term that have no chance of surviving long after birth. A lethal fetal illness is legal only if the woman informs the state that she plans to terminate the pregnancy.

A woman’s doctor can face a wrongful death lawsuit if he provides an abortion after learning about a pregnancy complication. One OB/GYN said that the law could imperil patients’ health by deterring doctors from performing a legal medical procedure. He said that “some women have “cases in which the risk of death during a full-term pregnancy is more than 14 times higher than for a termination of pregnancy.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with 30,000 members, opposes the law because a patient might keep life-threatening information from her doctor.

The legislature didn’t stop there. Donating fetal issue to scientific research is classified as a felony crime, and abortion providers responsible for burying or cremating “fetal remains.” Physicians must also provide information “about perinatal hospice care to a pregnant woman who is considering an abortion because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.” Women are forced to listen to a fetal heartbeat and view an ultrasound 18 hours before getting an abortion in a state that has only four clinics in 92 counties.

Women have decided to fight back. In a new program called “Periods for Pence,” women are calling the governor’s office with details about their menstruation. It is based on the women’s assumption that the governor deserves updates on their bodies because he has shown so much interest in them. Below are sampling of call reports:

Me: “Good morning. I just wanted to call and let the good Governor know that I am still not pregnant, since he seems to be so worried about women’s reproductive rights.”

Irritated lady on the other end of the phone: “And can I get your name, please?”

Me: “Sure, it’s Not Pregnant Laura.”

 

Just got through to Governor Pence’s office. (The operator must be on break.)

Me: “Hi, is this the operator, or the Governor’s office?”

Them: “Um, this is the office, but I am covering for the operator right now.”

Me: “Oh, good. I need to get a message to the Governor that I am on day three of my period. My flow seems abnormally heavy, but my cramps are much better to–”

Them: (Seriously pissed and trying to keep their voice down, but not quite succeeding.) MA’AM, WHAT IS IT THAT I CAN HELP YOU WITH?

Me: “Oh, I don’t need your help, I just wanted to keep Governor Pence informed of my reproductive cycle, since he seems so concerned.

Them: “Ugh.” (Click.)

 

I called to let him know that I am a lesbian so I won’t be needing an abortion (or legal protections, for that matter lol double whammy! Thanks, Pence!) also mentioned that I’m not currently menstruating but I might be ovulating.

 

Me: “Good Morning. I just wanted to inform the Governor that things seem to be drying up today. No babies seem to be up in there. Okay?”

Them: (Sounding strangely horrified and chipper at the same time.) “Ma’am, can we have your name?”

Me: “Sure. It’s Sue.”

Them: “And your last name?”

Me: “Magina. That’s M-A-G-I-N-A. It rhymes with–”

Them: “I’ve got it.” (Click.)

 

Someone from Pence’s campaign literally just rang my doorbell, wanting to know if I was likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the upcoming election. I let him know that I wasn’t sure, and that I’m going to be ovulating soon, and that I was unclear on whether or not I was legally required to fertilize the egg. He started cracking up.

 

Operator: Governor Mike Pence’s Office, please hold…  (Six minutes later.) Governor Pence’s office, thank you for waiting…

Me: Hi, I’m a native Hoosier who derives from the uterus of another native Hoosier…

Operator: (clears throat.)

Me: I now live in California and I’m wondering if my uterus still falls under the jurisdiction of Governor Pence or– ?

Operator: Please hold. (Click.)

The woman who launched this initiative on Facebook wrote:

“The more I read this bill, the more vague language I found and the more loopholes, and it just seemed incredibly intrusive. So I wanted to give a voice for women who really didn’t feel like they were given any kind of input into a bill that would affect our life so much.”

The law includes a reporting requirement that “some women on their periods may unknowingly expel a fertilized egg and thus have a miscarriage and be potentially liable if the egg is not correctly disposed of.” Lawmakers didn’t take into consideration that about half of miscarriages take place shortly after a fertilized is implanted and occur about the time when a woman might expect her menstrual period. She may not even know that she was having a “miscarriage.” As the creator of Periods of Pence wrote, “I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not ‘properly dispose’ of this or report it.” Therefore she recommends to women that they report to the governor about their menstrual periods in detail to keep from breaking his new law.

Some women, such as Madi Whitman, are choosing to post information on the governor’s Facebook page instead of calling:

Dear Governor Pence,

I recently switched from tampons to a menstrual cup and have found that it has an unexpected learning curve. I am having trouble with the position of my cervix at the onset of my period and as a result the cup leaks. Since you are so invested in my reproductive health and clearly understand my anatomy better than I do, I would appreciate any advice you have in cup placement and rotation techniques. Thanks!

And this request from Brandy Hager Smith:

Governor, I am thinking about getting a pair of underwear called Thinx. They are designed to catch the blood from Menstruation, replacing the need for tampons & pads. Are these approved by you? I don’t want to violate any of our strict women’s rights laws in Indiana. Thanks for undying commitment to women’s health!!!

Those wishing to participate in “Periods for Pence” can call (317) 232-4567, or 317–569-0709, fill out a form on the governor’s website,  or leave a message on his Facebook page. More message are on his Facebook page.)

In late March, one Missouri state legislator explained one reason why lawmakers consider themselves authorities on women’s reproduction. In a discussion about whether to ban abortion in the state, GOP Rep. Mike Moon claimed to know when a fetus becomes an “unborn human child” because he is a “former embryo.” After the audience finished laughing at him, a certified health expert testified against the resolution, explaining that there is no scientific consensus on when a fetus becomes a person and declaring that women should have the final choice about ending a pregnancy. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that only “all persons born” are granted citizenship under the jurisdiction of the United States. Two key words: persons and born. Personhood begins at birth.

When the cervix of a pregnant woman in Texas began prematurely dilating, nothing could be done to save the 20-week-old fetus. State law sent the woman home to wait until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat or the woman could deliver the fetus. After she started bleeding, she went back to the hospital where she had to wait four days until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat.

Thanks to “religious liberty” and conservatives, medical decisions are made by ignorant lawmakers who consider themselves experts in women’s reproductive health.

March 7, 2016

More Than Candidate Conflict–Such As Women’s Rights

The results from wacko caucuses that let 18,000 people in an entire state determine its presidential candidate continue to roll in and dominate the media while almost all other news is left in the dust. Tomorrow brings more about the presidential election and nothing else. But there is more news—like information about the GOP’s attempt to dominate women’s lives by denying us our reproductive rights.

For example, the House committee to close down Planned Parenthood after 11 other investigations showed no fault for the organization that operates thousands of women’s clinics nation-wide. The only indictments related to the discredited doctored videos produced by extremists were for the anti-choice activists.

We could subtitle the committee “Baby Parts,” which is how Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) referred to the issue, but the issue  is called the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” despite the fact that the subject is fetal tissue—not infants. The hearing’s focus was on a legal act since 1970, the ethics of donating fetal tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research that has resulted in vital medical breakthroughs. This donation has nothing to do with whether women have abortions, but the choice by chair, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), to feature people hostile to abortion shows her political bent.

Two people were allowed to testify about the facts of the case. R. Alta Charo, a professor at University of Wisconsin’s Law School and the School of Medicine & Public Health, said, “Federal review has repeatedly found that the option to donate tissue has no effect on whether a woman will choose to have an abortion.” She added that the Center for Disease Control has requested fetal tissue donations to speed up its study of Zika, the virus linked to severe brain defects in thousands of newborns. “The absence of this kind of research could lead to more abortions” by women who find out their fetus has been affected by the disease. “If we cut off this research, we’re facing a global emergency,” Charo said.

A serious difference of opinion on the committee, with the Republicans winning, was whether to issue subpoenas to medical researchers instead of disbanding. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked why the committee is demanding names of researchers and medical students dealing with fetal tissue and pointed out that publicizing their names could “endanger their lives” from attacks from anti-abortion extremists. Blackburn said that the committee has the right to do this but refused to give any reasons for why the committee needed these names. Pointing out the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic and explaining the committee members would be “complicit” in murders of researchers had no influence on the eight GOP members who outnumbered the six Democrats. The gunman who shot 12 people, killing three of them, explained his actions by saying “No more baby parts.”

The Democrats at the hearing called the committee’s actions a witch hunt. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) compared Blackburn’s investigation into researchers and doctors to former Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) abusive tactics 60 years ago. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said that those burned at the stakes “are our scientists, who hold future medical breakthroughs in their hands [and] brave women’s healthcare workers who are simply trying to care for their patients.” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) said, “This is not an objective hearing. This is a debate against a woman’s right to chose.” Rep. DelBene summarized the day’s events with this question: “Do you think ideology should shape the rules about scientific research?”

On the same day as this House travesty, the remaining eight U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, concerning the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the nation. If the court decides to rule on the case this year, it will need five votes to overturn the Texas law but just four to make the laws uncertain in other states. Justice Antonin Scalia would certainly have voted to uphold the Texas law, but he is no longer on the court.

Four of the justices hearing the case, three of them women, seemed suspicious of the claim that the law was to protect women’s health because of unreasonable mandates for women’s clinics to turn them into “ambulatory surgical centers.” Stephen Breyer pointed out that colonoscopies, which don’t need to be performed in an ambulatory surgical center, are 28 times more likely to have complications than abortions. Elena Kagan asked the Texas attorney about this, but he had no response. Then she pointed out that liposuction actually has greater complications. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked why a dilation and curettage associated with a miscarriage can be performed in a doctor’s office whereas a basically identical D&C for an abortion must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center.

The swing vote for a majority comes from Anthony Kennedy, who shifts back and forth from finding abortion “icky” (Gonzales v. Carhart) and wishing to keep some vestige of abortion (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). After statements that Texas imposed heavy burdens on clinics performing abortions but not on facilities performing riskier procedures, Kennedy suggested that the law creates an “undue burden,” a criterion, determined in Casey, that could result in striking down the law. A Kennedy concern was that the law would result in more women having surgical abortions rather than mediation abortions, a situation that he said “may not be medically wise.”

The uncertainty of the court’s decision comes from the claim that admitting privileges requirements cannot be determined at this stage of litigation. In discussing this procedural issue, Kennedy suggested returning the case to the lower court for additional fact-finding. To block the pro-choice faction, Justice Samuel Alito suggested the requirement of very specific information or challenges to each line of the many pages of regulations individually. Alito noted, “It will be work,” and the burden falls on abortion providers and their advocates.

If the Texas laws go into effect, the state will have fewer than ten women’s clinics for 5.4 million women of childbearing age, many of whom live 200 miles away.  The attorney general defending Texas law said that women who live more than 100 miles from a clinic can just go across the border into New Mexico. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found that “odd” because “New Mexico doesn’t have any surgical ASC requirement, and it doesn’t have any admitting requirement.” Kagan asked if Texas could demand that all clinics conform to Massachusetts General to increase health benefits “because MGH, it’s a great hospital.”

Texas laws are proposed in many red states throughout the country and drafted by Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that, according to its website, “works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced.”

Missouri initiated both laws under discussion in the Supreme Court, mandating clinics performing abortions be outpatient surgical centers in 1986 and requiring doctors have privileges at a nearby hospital in 2005. By now, the state has only one clinic, making it one of five states in the nation in this situation. If the court strikes down these laws in Texas, other states may lose them. States have passed over 200 TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws within the past five years, including Missouri’s 72-hour waiting period. The claim is always that the laws protect women, and the claim is always false.

Two laws that Missouri  lost are spousal consent for an abortion and second trimester abortions to be performed in a hospital. The state did block abortions in public facilities, for example the University of Missouri’s medical school in Kansas City. In accordance with religious beliefs, laws signed by then Gov. John Ashcroft in 1986 stated, “The life of each human being begins at conception.”

Also last week, seven of eight justices blocked a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital rights within 30 miles of the clinics. In this case, June Medical Services v. Gee, Clarence Thomas was the only dissent. The order blocking the Louisiana law began with 14 important words: “Consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.” In short, they criticized the 5th Circuit Court for ignoring the high court’s previous stay orders if the lower court “cannot discern the underlying reasoning” behind those orders and rebutted the lower court’s logic on its own terms.

This order may show that the Supreme Court opposes the 5th Circuit Court’s efforts to eradicate Roe v. Wade. And Scalia is not there to protect laws that violate women’s reproductive rights.

 

January 22, 2016

‘Roe v. Wade’: Past, Future

Filed under: Reproductive rights — trp2011 @ 9:14 PM
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Abortion is as old as the Bible, but recently its history and politics have moved from attention on pregnant women to unborn fetuses. “Women always have and always will have abortions,” said Heather Ault, 4000 Years for Choice founder and graphic designer. “It’s fundamental to human existence, and all human societies around the world have practiced forms of controlling pregnancy, to various degrees of effectiveness with the tools and knowledge they had available at that time, whether it be toxic herbs, early surgical methods, or magic and spells.”

In Numbers 5:11-31, God is described as instructing Moses to present “The Test for an Unfaithful Wife” (NIV), a ritual to be used by priests against women accused by their husbands of unfaithfulness. These women are to drink “bitter water,” a potion that to abort any pregnancies that result from “having sexual relations with a man other than your husband.”

The Royal Archives of China holds the earliest written record of an abortion technique in the 3000s BCD. The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, a founder of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the 2700s BCE, wrote recipes for contraception and abortion which were quoted into the 16th century. In the 300s BCE, siliphium, now extinct, was regarded as a gift from Apollo and used for both contraception and abortion in northern Africa and Greece. At the same time, Egyptians and Greeks used the birthwort plant for the same purpose. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “If too many children are being born, there are measures to check propagation,” and Aristotle agreed on the need for population control.

In the 200s, prolific Christian theologian Tertullian described two surgical methods used for abortion. In 418, St. Augustine, like most theologians of the time, felt that abortion wasn’t homicide because “unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified.” In 1318, St. Thomas Aquinas opposed abortion unless the fetus was “ensouled” at approximately 30 days after conception. Aquinas did not consider abortion a sin before this time because it was not a human being. After England broke with the Catholic Church in 1540, abortion was no longer considered a crime under common law.

During American slavery beginning in the 1600s, black slaves used the cottonwood plant as an abortive remedy to spare their children a life of misery. Colonial women used the same technique because abortion was legal through common law before “quickening,” the first detectable fetal motion at about the fourth month.

In 1821, Connecticut passed the first law in the United States that made abortion illegal. By the end of the nineteenth century, every state had passed anti-abortion legislation except Kentucky, which waited until 1910. The oppressive maternity homes established for pregnant women refused, however, to house black women. A choice was Dr. Bronson’s Female Pills, which promised to “remove difficulties arising from obstruction”; text warned that taking these during the first three or four months or pregnancy might result in miscarriage—most likely the remedy’s intent. The most widely known abortionist in the 1830s, Madame Restelle operated for 35 years with additional offices in Boston and Philadelphia. By the 1850s, she was one of over 200 abortionists in New York City, largely sought out by middle- and upper-class Protestant women who wanted smaller families.

Male doctors pressed for laws against abortion when they took over health care for women from the midwives, who they considered a threat to the male economic and social power. After the AMA declared in 1857 that abortion should be illegal, politician and “morality” advocate Anthony Comstock crusaded against birth control, sex workers, and eventually abortion. In 1873, the “Comstock Law” outlawed contraception and abortion with limited exceptions for health and women lost their common law right. Comstock also succeeded in passing laws against sending anything through the mail related to sexuality and was instrumental in jailing Margaret Sanger for defying the contraception prohibition.

Not until 1869 did the Catholic Church condemn abortion at all stages of pregnancy. By 1896, the Chicago Health Department forbade “any midwife having in her possession any drug or instrument or other article which may be used to procure and abortion,” as well as eleven other rules intended to control how they practiced traditional women’s health care.

When Margaret Sanger surveyed 10,000 working-class women during the 1920s, she found that 20 percent of them had had abortions. Another study showed that ten to 23 percent of educated, middle-class women had had the same procedure. By the late 1920s, 15,000 women a year died from illegal, unsafe abortions from knitting needles, crochet hooks, hairpins, scissors, and buttonhooks. Physicians reacted to the rising death toll in the 1930s by providing abortion care through underground clinics and working to protest the prohibition on abortion.

In 1931, a study in the Bronx found that 35 percent of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish women had had at least one illegal abortion. The next year, Harlem Hospital (New York City) opened a separate ward to treat women seeking emergency post-abortion emergency services from illegal abortions. For 10 years during the Depression, Dr. Josephine Gabler performed over 18,000 abortions at her office on State Street in Chicago. Eighty percent of the women were married and 57 percent already had children. She had referrals from over 200 area doctors.

During the 1930s, the U.S. had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with induced abortions responsible for at least 14 percent of the deaths. The increase in the number of the abortions to over 681,000 coincided with the rising economic problems faced by most people in the U.S. Women began to organize their own “birth control clubs,” such as one in New Jersey with 800 members. They paid dues and carried cards entitling them to regular examinations and access to illegal abortions.

Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer, Jr., a black physician in Detroit, started providing abortions in 1938. After performing 30,000 procedures, he was incarcerated from 1958 to 1960. In 1939, 68 percent of medical students in the U.S. said that they would be willing to perform abortions if they were legal. By the 1950s, between 200,000 and 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year.

With abortions still illegal in many states in 1959, Patricia Maginnis, a medical technician in San Francisco, developed a do-it-yourself abortion procedure that involved dilating your own cervix to miscarry. Although oral contraceptives came on the market in 1965, it was available only through prescription to married women for the next seven years. In Chicago, a group of young women started “The Service,” an underground feminist healthcare system to help women find safe and affordable illegal abortions, before it renamed itself “Jane” and trained themselves to provide surgical abortions in-house. Between 1969 and 1973, Jane performed nearly 12,000 abortion procedures. A similar group called the Feminist Women’s Health Center began in California.

All these efforts could stop in 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade  that the right of privacy included “a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” The 7-2 decision found that a person’s “zone of privacy” extended to their doctor’s office although Justice Harry Blackmun’s decision ruled that more narrow state laws could be constitutional after the point of fetal viability.

Blackmun’s ruling is the reason for the huge spate of anti-abortion, anti-women laws clogging state constitutions and statutory restrictions in the past half decade which have again removed the “zone of privacy.” In the past four years, 231 abortion restrictions have been enacted at state levels. The U.S. is rated D+ in overall reproductive rights and health, downgraded from the C rating in 2014,  and 27 states are ranked either “hostile” or “extremely hostile” to abortion. Not satisfied with attacking abortion, many of these states have attacked pregnant women, imprisoning them for using drugs or alcohol and convicting them of feticide if they accidentally have miscarriages. At this time, 38 states have feticide laws.

As the number of restrictive anti-choice laws rise, so does the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth—from 14.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2007 to 28 in 2014—almost double, as the conservative states pass draconian laws surrounding reproductive rights. This rate is seven times higher than seven European countries and 14 times that of Israel which has liberal abortion laws and government-subsidized abortion services. The states with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest uninsured rates, infant and child death rates,  and teen drug and alcohol abuse as well as lower preventive care and cancer screening rates.

On March 2, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear its first abortion case in eight years: Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case concerning a Texas law designed to close down more than 75 percent of clinics that provide abortion services in the state—a law which is actually a de facto abortion ban. The question before the court is whether reducing abortion clinic numbers into single digits for a state the size of Texas constitutes an “undue burden.” The decision will most likely set new precedent for the country. The answer will be whether every woman has a right to safely and legally end a pregnancy in this nation that claims to prize personal freedom.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We can only hope that women will regain some of the rights they have lost during the past 43 years.

January 5, 2016

Women Lose As Others Forge Ahead

The year 2015 was really good for people in the U.S. More red states accepted the Affordable Care Act, LGBT people gained more rights, the unemployment went down while the economy went up, the Iran agreement survived treasonous attempts by Republican legislators to destroy it, states started to move away from gerrymandering, a ban on microbeads in products will make eating fish healthier, President Obama decided to declare a war on unfettered gun ownership by felons and people with mental illnesses—the list goes on and on with encouraging actions.

Women, however, kept losing their fundamental rights. Conservative court actions and calls for defunding Planned Parenthood led to growing denials of inexpensive, easy access to health exams to detect cancer and STIs as well as contraceptives that would keep them from getting pregnant. During 2015, a number of states introduced almost 400 anti-abortion bills, an increase from 335 in 2014. From regulating medication abortions to complete bans on second-trimester abortions, 57 of these bills made it into law.

An overview of the “war on uteruses”:

Medication abortion restrictions: Arkansas requires providers to lie to patients by telling them that the effects of the “abortion pill”—a drug called mifepristone, or RU-486—can be reversed. Another restriction is mandating original FDA-approved dosage, decreasing the drug’s effectiveness and increasing negative side effects. Other inaccurate information forced on patients is the myth about fetal pain during abortion and women’s mental health problems after it. Laws also ban using telemedicine for medication abortion, especially beneficial for poor women living in rural areas. Idaho also bans this safe practice and requires doctors who administer the medication to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. With its concern about the importance of life between conception and birth, Arkansas is the second-worst state for women’s and children’s well-being.

Unprecedented bans against the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions: Kansas, the first state to pass a ban against what it calls “dismemberment abortion,” fails to use medical language in its law, opting for such emotional language as “unborn child” instead of fetus. A Kansas district judge blocked the law, and the case is on appeal. Oklahoma’s law uses even worse language by describing it as “purposely dismember[ing] a living unborn child….” That law is also on hold.

Waiting periods: North Carolina and Oklahoma tripled the time between state-mandated abortion counseling from 24 hours to 72 hours. All 12 Southeast states mandate waiting periods except for Florida where a law for a 24-hour waiting period blocked by a circuit court judge is pending a final ruling.

Reducing abortion access: Tennessee amended the state constitution by refusing any funding for abortions although state and federal money cannot legally be used to fund abortion. Another law requires clinics performing more than 50 surgical procedures a year to meet standards of ambulatory surgery centers similar to hospital standards. A woman who attempted to self-induce a miscarriage in her bathtub after 24 weeks of pregnancy now faces a first-degree attempted murder charge.

Parental consent: Arkansas women under 18 seeking a judge’s permission for an abortion without parental consent must undergo an “evaluation and counseling session with a mental health professional” to ensure that the minor is mature enough for the procedure and that an abortion is in her best interests. With no time limit for the court proceedings, the pregnancy could be so advanced that performing an abortion could become illegal. A minor is also required to file the petition in the county where she lives, violating her privacy.

Ban after 20 weeks: Despite the governor’s veto, West Virginia became the 15th state to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The law offers no exceptions for victims of rape or incest and provides only a highly limited exception for women whose lives are endangered by their pregnancy or for fetal abnormalities. A similar law in Arkansas against abortions after 12 weeks was struck down in the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Two states did move toward preventing abortions. Oregon became the first state to offer contraceptives over the counter for up to a year’s supply, and California allows women to get birth control directly from a pharmacist.

The growing lack of access to abortion and contraception increases unintended pregnancies among poor women while the number of these among well-off women is shrinking. The rate of such pregnancies among women with incomes below the poverty line jumped 56 percent from 1994 to 2008 while falling by 24 percent for higher-income women. In 2008, the unintended-pregnancy rate for poor women was more than five times that of the most well-off.  Without Planned Parenthood, women are more likely to lack contraception. Of 491 counties with PP clinics, 103 counties have no other place giving low-income women access to affordable contraception.

Women who are turned away from terminating pregnancies are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line over the following two years than women who successfully get an abortion. They are also more likely to end up unemployed and to rely on government benefits to get by, then considered “takers” by the Republican legislators.

In the coming year, the U.S. Supreme Court will make pivotal decisions regarding women’s access to abortions and contraception.

Whole Woman’s Health vs. Cole determines whether Texas can enforce two regulations forcing about 75 percent of the state’s women’s clinics to close by requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and mandating clinics to have the same standards as an outpatient surgical center. Although the case is framed as a health issue for women, it is actually about blocking abortions. The decision will determine the standard used in federal courts to review abortion regulations—whether states can enact regulations without proving the effectiveness of safety.

Zubik vs. Burwell addresses the fourth SCOTUS challenge to the Affordable Care Act and the second case about the religious freedom objection to employer mandate for no-cost contraceptive coverage in health insurance policies. The issue of this case is not whether religious groups are exempt but whether they must notify the government of their religious objections. They maintain that the mere signing of a notification will “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” quoting the 1993 federal law on religious liberty. Almost all the appeals courts have rejected this claim; SCOTUS will combine seven of them in this one case.

From 1973 until 1992, the Supreme Court rejected dozens of state efforts to limit access to abortion, enforcing Roe v. Wade’s ruling that until the point of viability, the state could regulate abortion only to protect the health and well-being of women. The only decisions during that time against abortion were Bellotti v. Baird (1979), ruling in favor of parental consent, and Harris v. McRae (1980), excluding payments for medically necessary abortions from Medicaid.

In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld a highly restrictive Pennsylvania law that included mandatory waiting periods, parental consent, and biased information. The Court abandoned the legal principles of Roe v. Wade, allowing laws designed to limit access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy if the law does not place an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion. The decision that spousal consent was an undue burden has not stopped hundreds of restrictions since 1992 that were not perceived as violation of the new standard.

In the more recent Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the Supreme Court upheld the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a 2003 law that fails to refer to any medical procedure. It bans an intact dilation and evacuation (D&E) unless the fetus is no longer alive. Since then, state restrictions have forced doctors to choose a less safe procedure if they cannot ensure the fetus is no longer alive even if it is brain dead.

The number of nonhospital providers performing 400 or more abortions per year peaked in the late 1980s at 705 and fell by 2011 to 553. Since 2011, over 200 abortion restrictions have led to massive closure of clinics throughout the nation. Five states—Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming—each have just one, and the number of abortion providers in Texas has gone from 62 across the huge state to a possibility of only ten. Not one clinic is open for 550 miles. Throughout the United States, clinics are closing at the rate of 1.5 every week. Other states have suffered the same losses, for example Ohio losing over half of its clinics.

abortion graphIn clinics still open, Christian terrorists subject workers and clients to a campaign of terror, criminal acts, and violence. The killings by these terrorists aren’t limited to clinics: Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church while attending Sunday services. Most abortions today require endless waits, interminable journeys, humiliation, and money. According to the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, states cannot regulate abortion if it “places an undue burden on women.” That’s the decision to be made this year about the state laws stopping poor women from obtaining their constitutional rights in reproductive care.

This summary is a beginning description of the “undue burden” of state laws on a simple procedure that can save women’s lives. According to Professor of Law Michael Dorf, the court will have to investigate if the laws mandating hospital standards at a clinic are an unnecessary health regulation—and thus unconstitutional because they are blocking women from their legally fundamental right to have abortions.

November 13, 2015

GOP: Women Too Stupid to Make Choices for Themselves

The recent National Religious Liberties Conference had three GOP presidential candates–Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal appeared on the stage demanding that LGBT people be rounded up and executed, much in the same way that ISIS does. Approached about his participation in this bath of hatred, Huckabee said he had no idea that Swanson had these views, despite an earlier call for him to not participate in the event. Religious right radio host Michael Brown tried to explain away the candidates’ appearance despite Jake Tapper’s telling Cruz about Swanson’s views before the conference.

With insistence on genocide, however, was the call to eliminate women’s rights.The theme of the conference was freedom, but Geoff Botkin delivered the message that the Disney movie Frozen is evidence of its “spirit of licentiousness.” Botkin compared Frozen’s song “Let It Go” to Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the Garden of Eden and called it “Satan’s rebellion anthem” corrupting children. The song is about a woman who decides to break away from the directive to treat her talents as a curse and make her own decisions. Botkin was not alone in his claims at the conference: Swanson has frequently declared that Frozen will cause little girls to become lesbians.

Several conference speakers have connections to the “biblical patriarchy” or Quiverfull movement, which fights to roll back women’s rights to use contraceptives. To them, birth control access is a threat to the family and liberty because Christian families must return to traditional gender roles in order to bear and raise as many children as possible. At one time, the move to deny birth control was considered a fringe movement, but the Supreme Court legitimized it in the Hobby Lobby case that recognized restriction of birth control as well as abortion. To many fundamentalist Christians, all birth control that stops pregnancy is considered murder. By recognizing Hobby Lobby’s misrepresentations of this position, the Supreme Court put into law the falsehoods about contraception leading to abortions.

Conservatives also use the myth of “abortion regret” to push a doctor’s claim that he can “reverse” abortion by injecting women with unnecessary shots. Women do not regret abortions. A recent study of women who got abortions shows that 95 percent of women who get abortions say, both right after the abortion and years after the fact, that it was the right decision for them. The political propaganda of “saving” the “baby” comes from the misguided theory that women are too stupid to be trusted with legal abortion. The state must make decisions for these women, because no woman really wants an abortion.

Forced pregnancy is a way to protect women, according to conservatives, because, deep down, all women really want to have those babies. Justice Anthony Kennedy enshrined this belief in Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) when he wrote that the right to choose should be narrowed because “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” The opinion moved medical decisions for women from doctors to federal and state legislators. This ruling upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 by claiming that it did not impose an undue burden on the due process right of women to obtain an abortion.

Sheva Guy, 23, disagrees. She was forced to either drive 300 miles from Ohio to Chicago for an abortion or deliver a stillborn child. At 22 weeks, her ultrasound showed a fatal spinal abnormality in a female fetus preventing its survival. Under Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate, Ohio dropped abortion clinics from 14 to nine with an abortion ban after 24 weeks. Guy wasn’t even allowed to take her fetus home to Ohio.

The late great journalist, author, and commentator Molly Ivins wrote in 1996:

“There’s something very wrong in our discussion of this. If there’s anything that late-term abortion is, it is not an easy call. And I just want to say, that perhaps, I almost get the impression that somebody thinks women don’t have no moral sense at all. No woman who is seven months pregnant, ever waddles past an abortion clinic and says, ‘Darn, I knew there was something I’ve been meaning to get around to.’ This is ridiculous.

“You have those late-term abortions, because either the mother is going to die, the child is going to die, or both are going to die. These procedures are incredibly rare. I only know of two in the state of Texas since Roe v. Wade was passed. They were both what they call cases of babies with no brain. The brain, the child’s brain stem had developed, but then something went horribly wrong and these children literally had no brains. Now, is that an easy call? Is that simple to you?”

Missouri Republicans are so afraid of abortion research that they are threatening to defund the University of Missouri if Lindsey Ruhr continues her doctoral dissertation on the effects of the 72-hour waiting period before women can have abortions. Despite a Missouri law banning universities from “encouraging” abortions, state senator Kurt Schaefer, chairman of the anti-abortion Committee on the Sanctity of Life, maintains that Ruhu is biased although he has not seen her methodology.

Republicans’  history of banning research includes funding about gun violence because “guns don’t kill people—people do,” according to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last summer. He said that “a gun is not a disease,” and the topic outside of the CDC’s research domain. Scientists are also prevented from studying right-wing terrorism in the United States.

Even women conservatives want stupid women. According to Phyllis Schlafly, men are smarter than women. She suggests admissions quotas, eliminating student loans, and reinstating all men’s sports canceled by Title IX to prevent women from attending colleges and universities. Schlafly, a retired constitutional lawyer, believes that fewer women would be raped if they didn’t go to college.

Conservatives’ denigrating statements about women and rape accelerated during the 2012 election campaigns and have increased since then. George Will called being a rape victim a “coveted status,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another GOP presidential candidate, minimized rape as a “definitional problem.” Many state legislators claim that women typically lie about being raped to avoid consequences of consensual sex. Former presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, insinuated that rape victims who need abortions after 20 weeks are either lazy or stupid—certainly undeserving of compassion.

The police chief of Georgia’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Bryan Golden, told the school newspaper that “most” sexual assaults aren’t sexual assaults at all — women just feel “guilty” about their “consensual” actions. “That’s being stupid,” he added. Golden was briefly suspended without pay, but he’s back on the job, investigating sexual assaults.

During the present term, SCOTUS will hear a case that may bring back the theme of women’s stupidity. Whole Women’s Health v. Cole resulted from the Texas law that tried to shut down at least nine of the 19 remaining abortion clinics in the state with 27 million people, almost half of them women. The term “abortion clinics” is really a misnomer because these women’s clinics provide far more health services than abortions.

None of the legal requirements for these clinics protects women—although legislators claimed that it does—but has everything to do with restricting abortions. Then-governor Rick Perry said in 2012 that until the world is without abortions, “we will continue to pass laws to ensure that they are rare as possible.” The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether it will uphold 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe v. Wade, or decide that women are too stupid to make decisions about their own bodies.

In Casey, Justice Anthony Kennedy, most likely the swing decider on the court, wrote that a woman’s right to an abortion involves “the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment.” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said:

“Access to health care should not depend on a person’s income, where they live or their ability to travel to another state. It’s time for the Supreme Court to send a clear message that these dangerous laws create an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”

Quote from Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence:

jennifer Lawrence

Oral arguments on Women’s Heath v. Cole are scheduled for Spring 2017; a decision will probably not be handed down until the end of next June.

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