If Roe falls, women may not face the same kinds of physical dangers from seeking abortion as in previous decades. Instead, however, I predict there will be far more criminal prosecutions of those involved in illegal abortion.63512

The prospect of the overturn of Roe v. Wade—which the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation struggle over Judge Neil Gorsuch is highlighting—is terrifying to many, especially to those who remember the notorious pre-Roe days. It is also a real possibility, should President Donald Trump have the opportunity for another nomination, one that would replace a liberal judge with a “pro-life” one, as he pledged to do during the campaign. But if Roe falls, women may not face the same kinds of physical dangers from seeking abortion as in previous decades. Instead, however, I predict there will be far more criminal prosecutions of those involved in illegal abortion.

If Roe is overturned, the most likely immediate consequence would be that individual state legislatures would decide whether or not to allow abortions. According to legal analysts at the Center for Reproductive Rights, some 34 states are at risk of banning abortions, largely in the Midwest and South. About 40 million women live in those states. Predictably, many women seeking abortions will have to travel, paying not only for the procedure, but for transportation, lodging, and babysitters (nearly 60 percent of abortion patients already have children). These travelers, of course, may also lose wages for the time spent away from their jobs. One can safely assume that many won’t be able to afford an out-of-state option, as abortion patients are disproportionately among the poorest women in society.

Therefore, there will likely be a considerable increase in self-induced abortion. (In fact, such an increase is already occurring in the United States, as access to abortion is so difficult in many areas due to restrictive legislation and clinics being closed.)

What might we expect then? Will the abortion landscape resemble the pre-Roe days, when some scholars estimate that approximately 5,000 women per year died from illegal abortion in the 1960s, and tens of thousands more were injured?

If there is a second large wave of illegal abortion, a similar kind of danger is questionable. This is because of changes in abortion technology that have occurred since legalization. Pre-Roe, many women attempted to self-induce abortion by drinking dangerous substances such as turpentine and lye, and inserting various objects into their cervixes, including the infamous coat hangers. When they went to others—whether a medical provider or layperson—one of the main methods used was dilation and curettage, or the scraping of the uterus. In untrained hands, this was very risky.

Today, however, there is another method of pregnancy termination: “medication abortion,” which is in wide use in the United States and elsewhere. This method actually involves two drugs: mifepristone, formerly known as “RU-486,” which causes a fetus to stop growing, and misoprostol, a drug with several medical uses, which causes the cervix to open and the uterus to contract. Medication abortion is used both legally and extra-legally: Both mifepristone and misoprostol can be obtained over the internet, and misoprostol is available over the counter in many pharmacies in Latin America (and in flea markets in the United States).

 To be sure, these drugs are not always 100 percent effective in ending a pregnancy. When they are ordered over the internet, the products are not always authentic or reliable, and misoprostol, often used alone because it is easier to get, is not quite as effective as the two-drug regimen. But even when ineffective, they are not usually dangerous. Some tragedies will inevitably happen with a large-scale return of illegal abortion, particularly among the young and most desperate, and among those who discover their pregnancies too late to use the medication abortion regime, which is largely recommended for use only through 10 weeks of pregnancy. Overall, though, women will not face the same kinds of death and injury as occurred before the Roe decision.

What will likely be different, however, is the degree of criminalization facing both women who attempt illegal abortions, and any providers or advocates who try to help them. Given the number of illegal abortions that took place before Roe (slightly more than 1 million per year in some estimates), it is striking in retrospect how relatively few prosecutions and jail sentences there were. This is not to suggest, however, that women who sought abortions and doctors and others who provided them were not terrified of being caught, as there was always the possibility of jail time, the loss of medical licenses for doctors, and public shame for both.

Today, though, anyone involved in illegal abortion would face a very different legal and political environment. In fact, even as Roe remains the law of the land, women have recently been jailed for attempting self-induced abortions. The Self-induced Abortion Legal Team has identified 17 known arrests or convictions in connection with alleged self-induced abortion since 2005.

There is already intense scrutiny and sometimes criminalization of pregnant women in the United States—and not only of those seeking abortions. This surveillance is made shockingly evident in a 2013 reportby researchers from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and Fordham University, which tabulated hundreds of cases of pregnant women arrested since Roe for various reasons. In a particularly bizarre 2010 case, an Iowa woman who accidentally fell down a flight of stairs and sought help at a hospital was reported to police and arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.”

The main reason for this predicted difference in punishment before and after Roe is that in the earlier era, there was not in place anything resembling the national anti-choice movement of today. Prosecution before Roe was very idiosyncratic, dependent on local factors. But if Roe falls, criminal justice officials, from the virulently anti-choice Attorney General Jeff Sessions on down to local police and district attorneys in many jurisdictions, can be expected to avidly pursue those who break the law.

When Donald Trump, shortly after his election, was asked by a journalist about what the possible overturning of Roe would mean for American women who sought abortions, he casually answered, “Well … they’ll have to go to another state.”  Yes, Mr. President, some will go to other states, but many others might go to jail.


Tennessee woman Hadleigh Tweedall shares her abortion story.

Hadleigh Tweedall and her husband had long been hoping for a second child to join their son, born in January 2014. Tweedall got pregnant just a few months after her son turned 1, but she experienced a miscarriage at the 11-week mark. “After that, it took us a while to start trying again,” Tweedall tells SELF. “It was obviously very devastating.” So when Tweedall found out she was pregnant again at the end of summer 2015, she was ecstatic. She and her husband were hopeful this pregnancy would be a successful one.

“Baby Grace,” she says. “That was the baby we ended up terminating.”

When Thanksgiving came around, Tweedall was 12 weeks pregnant. She’d just had a checkup and an ultrasound, and had been told everything looked normal with her pregnancy. She went in for some noninvasive prenatal testing, per a suggestion from her doctor. These tests could tell her the sex of the fetus, and they could alert her doctor to the presence of trisomies—chromosomal abnormalities that could lead to fetal anomalies or miscarriage. Tweedall and her husband were excited to find out the sex, so they went in and completed the tests right before Thanksgiving. The doctors said they would hear back about their results just 10 days later.

“We did Thanksgiving with our families,” she says. “We announced our pregnancy to our extended families, and it was a really exciting time.” But when they got back from Thanksgiving, Tweedall and her husband still hadn’t gotten their results. The couple called the office repeatedly over the next three weeks, until a doctor finally told them they needed to come in. “I was hysterical, because I knew something was wrong,” she says. “She would have just told us everything was fine over the phone, but she wanted to see us.” At that point, Tweedall knew her fetus likely had a trisomy—though she had no idea which one.

Tweedall and her husband soon learned their fetus was female, but the tests also found trisomy 21—more commonly known as Down syndrome. “It was a lot of information coming at us all at once,” Tweedall says. She learned there was a small chance that there was a false positive—meaning her fetus wouldn’t actually have a trisomy. Tweedall was only 30 years old, so her risk of conceiving a child with Down syndrome was 1 in 940. Her doctor recommended more tests to confirm the results, and the couple agreed.

“It was Christmas,” Tweedall says. “Everything was booked, and every sonogram place was closed for the holidays.” The couple got the earliest appointment available to them on December 28. In the meantime, Tweedall did some research. She reached out to the director of the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee, and connected with a family who had children with Down syndrome. “I wanted to get a better idea about the condition,” she says. “It could lead to multiple surgeries and a very short suffering life for the child. Or the child could be very high-functioning and prosper. You just don’t know.”

For Tweedall and her husband, the next two weeks dragged on. “I don’t think I got out of bed very much,” she says. “You just feel really lost with a diagnosis like that.” When the couple finally went in for tests on December 28, they learned the fetus had both Down syndrome and hydrops fetalis—a condition in which the body fills with fluid. “It was a terrible day,” Tweedall says. “Her legs had stopped growing due to fluid. Our doctor told us there was no way this baby would survive more than a month or two of pregnancy.” Tweedall explains that if the pregnancy had been farther along, the doctor could have induced labor and tried to save the fetus. But Tweedall was only 17 weeks in. “At that point, there’s not much you can do when there’s that much fluid in the baby’s body,” she says.

The doctor told Tweedall that the pregnancy would become increasingly high-risk if she decided to carry it to term. “‘If she passes away, your body might take a while to realize she’s no longer living,'” Tweedall was warned. This increased Tweedall’s risk of hemorrhaging or contracting an infection.

“So my doctor recommended that I terminate the pregnancy—from a safety standpoint for me,” she says. Tweedall notes that many laws restricting abortion access are written to include exceptions for cases that endanger the life of the mother. “But it’s a hard thing, because that’s based on opinion,” she says. “Nobody told me I was going to die. My risk of death and hemorrhaging and infection increased if I continued—but it’s such a fine line. I’m a wife and a mother to a little boy—I want to be around for that.”

Tweedall’s doctor said the closest place that would perform a late-term abortion was a clinic in Atlanta. “It wasn’t even a conversation to see if anyone would do it here,” she says. “But I didn’t want to be away from everyone, sleeping in a hotel, and not even knowing or trusting the medical staff.” So Tweedall didn’t really look into going to Atlanta. Instead, she decided to take a trip to her hometown—Chicago—because she felt more comfortable being in a place where her parents still lived. “It’s scary enough that you’re going through all this,” she says. “To think you’re going to be in a clinic somewhere you aren’t familiar with is a lot to take in.” And Tweedall felt disappointed by the lack of support she was receiving from her medical staff in Tennessee. “Everyone just sorted of washed their hands of it and walked away,” she says.

So Tweedall planned to travel to Chicago to receive the medically necessary procedure. Beforehand, she had to fax over her medical records and send ultrasounds showing that the fetus had severe hydrops fetalis. “But I had to follow up with my doctor three or four times just to get her to send over the paperwork,” she says. “I called her office numerous times—and never got a call back.” Tweedall grew concerned. The Chicago hospital would only perform abortions on pregnancies under 20 weeks, and Tweedall was already at 17.5. “We were leading up to the new year,” she says. “It was the holidays—everyone was out of office. No one was responding, and the longer you wait, the more your risks increase and the more difficult the procedure becomes.”

Tweedall ended up terminating her pregnancy five days into the new year—on January 5, 2016. “It was the hardest thing of my entire life,” she says.

Tweedall says that after she came home to Tennessee, people kept trying to reassure her by saying that what she did “wasn’t an abortion.” “But I kept saying, ‘No—it is,” she says. “I wanted to reclaim the word abortion, because the stigmatized image people have of abortion isn’t always what it is.”

Tweedall later learned that she could have had her abortion at a Tennessee hospital, after all. The state’s laws permit women to have abortions at clinics until they’re 15 weeks pregnant. Then, between 15 weeks and fetal viability (20 to 22 weeks), a woman can have an abortion at a hospital. These medical facilities have the right to deny patients, meaning they’re not required to perform the procedure—they’re just permitted to. If Tweedall had been more aware of Tennessee’s laws, she might have avoided traveling 491 miles just to receive a safe, legal medical procedure she needed.

“It was just interesting to find out that technically my doctor should have fought for me,” she says. “But nobody did. Nobody fought for me. And that’s disheartening. You rely on your doctors—especially in a crisis situation—to give you accurate information. On top of it, you’re grieving the loss of your daughter. And it’s just—I don’t know—the regulations and the way I was treated by the medical team here in Tennessee didn’t make the situation any easier. I even had to call and follow up about our paperwork. Thank God for my husband, because he was doing most of it while I was on the floor crying. So to find out later that I technically should have been able to go home to my bed that night is just awful.”

And though reliving these experiences brings back negative feelings, Tweedall says it’s only getting easier to talk about. When I spoke with her in early January, she was about to give birth to another child. After three years, one miscarriage, and one abortion, she and her husband are finally welcoming a second child into their family. “It’s been a long nine months,” she says. “It’s been so long, and we’ve had to go through so much crap to get to this point.”

And whether her tragic experience is effecting change, inspiring open-mindedness, or making someone feel less alone, she’s happy to share it. “At least if my story can help somebody, it’s worth telling,” she says.

Source: Self


Norma McCorvey did not live to see the case overturned. But today’s abortion access may more closely resemble the country of her youth than she imagined


In 1998, Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in the Roe v Wade supreme court decision, testified before a group of senators about the case fought in her name 25 years earlier. “I am dedicated,” she said, “to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name.”

McCorvey did become an activist against abortion rights, although she wouldn’t live to see Roe, which in 1973 established a right to abortion, overturned. She died on Saturday in Katy, Texas, at the age of 69.

Knowing the end was near, McCorvey gave her friends and fellow activists a mission the day before she died, according to her friend Janet Morana. “She wanted to tell everyone to continue the fight,” said Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life.

But while McCorvey died in a country still shaped by the case that bears her pseudonym, the practical realities of abortion access may more closely resemble the country of her youth than she imagined.

Anti-abortion activists began to chip away at Roe v Wade almost as soon as the supreme court handed the decision down. In 1976, Congress began prohibiting poor women from using Medicaid to cover abortions. Conservative state lawmakers have unleashed a tidal wave of abortion restrictions, such as an Ohio law signed in December, that make the procedure more difficult to obtain. The most effective of these laws forced abortion clinics to close down. Since 2011, abortion clinics have closed at a record pace of more than 30 clinics per year.

McCorvey wasn’t a soldier in the early battles. In the 1980s, she revealed her identity publicly and spent time volunteering in a Dallas abortion clinic and taking part in abortion rights rallies. It wasn’t until 1995, when she converted to evangelical Christianity – later, to Catholicism – that she began to join activists who wanted abortion to be abolished.

For the most part, she was active with religious groups and ordinary people who wanted to see abortion outlawed as quickly as possible. Occasionally, she lent her name to legal efforts that challenged Roe head-on. In 1997, she wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in a long-shot case claiming Roe had led to untold numbers of coerced abortions, and must be overturned.

The most successful contingent of the anti-abortion movement had long since left those tactics behind. In 1984, at a conference sponsored by Americans United for Life, a participant proposed what would become the movement’s most powerful weapon against Roe: laws that allowed the courts to chisel away at its doctrine.

It is a strategy that has proved highly effective. Activists have sufficiently narrowed Roe so that states can require women seeking an abortion to attend anti-abortion counseling; require minors seeking an abortion to receive the permission of one or both parents; require women to wait 24 hours or more before receiving an abortion; extensively regulate abortion after 20 weeks; and block public funding for abortion.

All the while, fewer women have found they needed abortions. This year, US researchers announced that the proportion of pregnancies that ended in abortion had reached its lowest point since the supreme court decided Roe v Wade. The decline was largely due not to new abortion restrictions, they believed – with the exception of unconstitutional laws that forced clinics to close – but to more effective and widely available methods of contraception.

Anti-abortion activists have credited the low abortion rate to the triumph of their tactics and rhetoric, and have largely hailed the Republican takeover of Congress and the White House. The party has historically aided their fight against abortion rights, and its leaders have announced plans to gut widespread access to contraception and place new restrictions on abortion.

All of this, of course, is achieved with an eye toward overturning Roe v Wade. Donald Trump, in his election-season efforts to win the support of anti-abortion groups, promised to appoint judges to the supreme court who would be open to overturning the decision. Many legal experts are skeptical, however, given the amount of precedent that now exists to protect abortion rights, that overturning Roe v Wade is even possible.

With this in mind, anti-abortion campaigners have noted the difference between overturning Roe v Wade and making it as though Roe v Wade had never happened. Activist groups and conservative lawmakers have shown that they can achieve one without the other.

Twenty-one states have laws allowing a parent to all but prevent minors from having abortions. The ban on using Medicaid to cover abortion has foreclosed the option of abortion to at least 1 million women. The closure of half of Texas’ abortion clinics, under a law that was later ruled unconstitutional, caused a 50% drop in abortions in areas where the distance to the nearest clinics suddenly increased by more than 100 miles.

Owing to a record number of clinic closures, thousands of women each year travel great distances for abortions and even cross state lines. An unknown number of women have attempted to perform their own abortions, including some who have tried to do so with sharp objects. The difficulties begin to recall a time before abortion was legal in all 50 states.

Two years ago, one abortion provider reflected on the changes, saying: “Sometimes, I feel like I’ve gone back 40-some years.”

Source: The Guardian



Should we journalists use the word “lie” to describe President Trump’s most manifest falsehoods?

That debate has roiled the news world. The Times this week used the word “lie” in a front-page headline, and I agreed with that decision, but there’s a counterargument that lying requires an intention to deceive — and that Trump may actually believe his absurd falsehoods.

So in 2017 we reach a mortifying moment for a great democracy: We must decide whether our 45th president is a liar or a crackpot.

Yet the costliest presidential falsehoods and delusions are not the ones that people are talking about, such as those concerning the inauguration crowd or electoral fraud. The most horrific chicanery involves Trump’s new actions on women’s health that will cause deaths around the globe.

It followed the weekend’s stunning women’s marches: At least 3.2 million people apparently participated in all 50 states, amounting to 1 percent of the U.S. population. In a slap at all who marched, Trump this week signed an order that will cut off access to contraception to vast numbers of women, particularly in Africa.

It will also curb access to cancer screenings and maybe even undermine vaccination campaigns and efforts against H.I.V. and the Zika virus. The upshot: Thousands of impoverished, vulnerable women will die.

Americans have focused on the executive actions about building a wall, or expediting oil pipelines, but nothing is more devastating than the edict on women’s health (signed in front of a group composed almost entirely of smiling men in suits).

In fairness, Trump probably thought he was doing a good thing; that’s a measure of his delusion. He reinstated what’s called the Mexico City policy, which stipulates that family planning funds cannot go to foreign aid groups that ever discuss abortion. (Federal funds already don’t go for abortions.)

Presumably Trump thought this policy would reduce abortions, and was thus “pro-life.” In fact, this is a “pro-death” approach that actually increases abortions, as well as deaths among women.

How can that be? Many groups, like Marie Stopes International and Planned Parenthood International, lose funding in poor countries from this policy. In 2001, when President George W. Bush imposed a more limited version, 16 developing countries lost shipments of contraceptives from the U.S.

Stanford University researchers found that the Bush version of the policy reduced contraceptive use in Africa — and increased abortion rates.

This all sounds wonkish and antiseptic, but in poor countries, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is become pregnant. I’ve seen too many women dying or suffering in filth on stained cots in remote villages because of childbirth.

I wish Trump could see them: a mother of three in Cameroon dying after her birth attendant sat on her stomach to hasten delivery; a woman in Niger collapsing from a common complication called eclampsia; a 15-year-old girl in Chad whose family dealt with her labor complications by taking her to a healer who diagnosed sorcery and burned her arm as she lay in a coma.

With this new order, Trump will inadvertently cause more of these horrific scenes. Maybe “war on women” sounds hyperbolic, but not if gasping, dying women are seared in your memory.

Worse, Trump expanded this “global gag rule” — as critics call it, because it bars groups from mentioning abortion — so that it apparently will cover all kinds of health services, including efforts to tackle polio or Zika or H.I.V., even programs to help women who have been trafficked into brothels. (The White House didn’t respond to my inquiries.)

I hope all of the marchers call the White House, 202-456-1111, or their members of Congress, 202-224-3121, to protest.

Marie Stopes alone estimated that if it cannot find replacement funding, the new policy will result in 6.5 million unintentional pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions and 21,700 women dying in pregnancy or childbirth.

The victims invariably are among the most voiceless, powerless people in the world. When Bush imposed his version of the policy, it meant that no contraceptives reached a village in northern Ghana. As a result, a young woman named Kolgu Inusah became pregnant.

She tried to abort the pregnancy herself using herbs, but something went wrong and she suffered terrible abdominal pains. She was rushed to a clinic, but doctors couldn’t save her. Her two children now have no mom.

President Trump, you may think you are “pro-life” and preventing abortions, but that’s a lie or a delusion. In fact, you are increasing the number of abortions and of dying women.

And to those women and men who marched last weekend, remember that this isn’t about symbols, speeches or pussy hats. It’s about the lives of women and girls.

Please, please, keep on marching, keep on calling.

Source: NY Times




e U.S. abortion rate has hit its lowest point since the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling made the procedure legal nationwide in 1973, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based think tank that supports legalized abortion, estimated that there were 926,200 abortions in 2014, or 14.6 for every 1,000 women of reproductive age. That was down from a peak of just over 29 out of every 1,000 women in 1980 and 1981.

The institute is considered an authority on the abortion rate, having tracked it since 1973 by conducting a census every few years of all known abortion providers. Its counts do not include abortions done outside medical settings.

Activists on both sides of the contentious abortion policy debate welcomed the findings but did not agree on what is causing the decline.

Since 1982, abortion rates have dropped steadily, even as public opinion about the procedure has remained relatively consistent. In 2016, 57% of those surveyed by the Pew Research Foundation said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

What do abortion defenders say?

Reproductive rights advocates say the study shows that increased access to family planning services and contraception is paying off, reducing the number of unintended and teen pregnancies.

“We don’t think it’s because people are having less sex,” said Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, an obstetrician with the New York-based group Physicians for Reproductive Health. “It’s because people are protecting from pregnancy better than they used to.”

Research has shown a large increase in the use of intrauterine devices and implants that release hormones — highly effective, long-acting methods that in recent years have become more affordable and been deemed safe for use in adolescent women.

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which President Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress have vowed to eliminate and replace, insurers are required to cover a wide variety of contraception methods without charging a copayment or coinsurance. Doctors say that requirement has helped their patients access new methods of contraception or stay on birth control without missing doses.

“Women and families are healthier, and people are better able to plan their lives, their families, and their futures,” said Amy Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, in a statement. “This report underscores that we need more access to birth control and preventive care, not less.”

What do abortion foes say?

Some abortion opponents express reservations about the report’s findings because they are based on information provided by physicians who offer abortions.

“There is no national abortion reporting law, making it impossible to know the true number of abortions,” said Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for Americans United for Life.

The group hopes that there has indeed been a decline in the number of abortions in the U.S. but disputes the reasons offered by abortion rights activists.

“The abortion industry wants to claim that the abortion rate may be lower because of another product that they sell — birth control. But birth control is widely available and has been around since the 1950s,” Hamrick said in an email.

She pointed instead to a wave of state laws passed over the last five years that imposed increasingly stringent regulations on abortion providers and their patients, including a requirement that women have an ultrasound before undergoing the procedure.

“Such pictures are worth more than a thousand words when it comes to helping people understand whose lives are on the line,” said the group’s acting president, Clarke Forsythe, in a statement.

What do the study’s authors say?

The study did not investigate the causes of the decline, but researchers said both greater use of contraception and increased restrictions on abortions may have played a role.

From 2011 through 2015, Guttmacher recorded 288 laws passed in 31 states that limited abortion access for minors, required counseling or a waiting period, imposed regulations on providers or targeted funding for family-planning services, among other restrictive measures.

“Abortion restrictions and clinic closures mean that patients may need to travel greater distances to access services,” said Rachel Jones, lead author of the study. “The majority of abortion patients — 75% — are poor or low-income, and nearly two-thirds are already parents. It can be very difficult for them to arrange for time off from work, transportation and child care.”

Dr. Daniel Grossman, an obstetrician at UC San Francisco who has studied the effect of abortion laws in Texas, doubts that the decline in abortions in that state has much to do with changes in contraception use.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2, which made it harder for patients to receive abortion-inducing medications, required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and required all abortions to take place in hospital-like settings known as ambulatory surgical centers. Almost overnight, more than half of the state’s 41 clinics closed.

Grossman and his colleagues at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that, while the total number of abortions in the state dropped after the law took effect, the number performed during the second trimester rose. That suggested to the researchers that women were struggling to find abortion providers, resulting in delays and procedures that are riskier and more expensive.

A colleague of Grossman at UCSF, Diana Greene Foster, says there is “zero evidence” that laws aimed at changing women’s minds — those requiring ultrasounds, waiting periods or counseling, for example — are affecting abortion rates. “But clinic closures and gestational limits — those certainly have an effect on women with limited resources,” she said.

By 2014, 90% of all U.S. counties — accounting for 39% of women of reproductive age — had no clinic that provided abortions, the study found.

But the majority of the decline in abortions occurred in states that did not have major new restrictions in place. Six states saw increases in the abortion rates: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina and Vermont.

Foster and other experts credited the Affordable Care Act with making contraception more affordable and convenient. They worry that the abortion rate could rise if Congress, in its effort to repeal the law, does not preserve mandated insurance coverage for birth control.


Source: LA times


After a weekend of inspiring protest, we had to watch the world’s most powerful man sign away the reproductive rights of women in developing countries

ook at these men. Look at them. Gathered around the most powerful man in the world – a man who has openly bragged of sexual assault, who refers to a vulva as a woman’s “wherever” – as he signs away the reproductive rights of women in developing countries. In reimposing the global gag rule, Donald Trump is removing US funding to any overseas organisation that offers abortions, even if the organisation provides those specific services with their own funds. It means that doctors, midwives, nurses and volunteers cannot so much as mention the word “abortion” to their patients and service users without risking the loss of the US funding they receive for services including the supply of contraceptives.

If there is a woman present in this room, as this executive order is being signed along with two others, she is not included in the shot. This photograph is what patriarchy looks like – a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded. Nothing quite says powerlessness like the removal of your right to bodily autonomy, at the behest of a group of people who will never – can never – know what that feels like. There’s a reason women are using the word patriarchy again, that it featured on so many signs during the Women’s Marches, and it is not, as ridiculous outrage automaton Piers Morgan asserts, because they are rabid feminists intent on emasculating men. Because – and I hate to break this to Piers – if you are emasculated by the notion of a woman making her own reproductive choices, then you were never much of a man to begin with.

What do any of these men know of women? I doubt the men in that room have ever so much as held a tampon. I doubt they’ve made their wives or girlfriends a hot water bottle, or changed her bloody sheets, or volunteered to go down to the drugstore to buy her maxi pads when she’s doubled up in pain and cursing her ovaries. If you left an IUD on the president’s desk, he’d probably assume it was a tiny little pen made especially for him. He’d pick it up and attempt to use it to sign his name, no doubt at the bottom of some other piece of legislation that will profoundly and irreversibly affect women’s lives.

The smirks on some of their faces may say it all. Call me paranoid if you like, but the fragility of the president’s ego does not exclude the possibility that he is enjoying an act of petty revenge against an entire gender, millions of whom took to the streets over the weekend because the very fact of this man’s unmatched global power says more about women’s continued oppression than a feminist treatise ever could. Look who’s in charge now, this picture says.

The stupidity of the blinkered, religiously motivated agenda on display here is that no matter what legislation these men implement, they will never succeed in banning abortion, per se, only safe, legal abortion. Marie Stopes estimates that, as a result of the reimposition of the global gag order, the loss of their services alone could result in 6.5m unintended pregnancies during Trump’s first term, 2.1m unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths. In passing this law, these patriarchs have fathered millions of unwanted children, helping to create lives that could very well turn out to be painful and potentially motherless.

The rage I feel towards these men is white-hot. I want to force them to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, so they can understand. But they never will. As my colleague Martin Belam has said, as long as you live you will never see a photograph of seven women signing legislation that defines and controls what men can do with their reproductive organs. It is unimaginable.

The global gag rule has long been used as a political football. It was introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1984, revoked by Bill Clinton, reinstituted by George W Bush, then revoked by Barack Obama. According to the Guttmacher Institute, reporting on the findings of a research initiative by NGOs, when George W Bush reimposed the global gag rule, the US agency for international development was forced to cut off shipments of contraceptives to 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. At the time, one in four women in Lesotho were infected with HIV. The contraceptive shipments to Lesotho Planned Parenthood – the only available conduit for condoms in the country – ended as a result of Bush’s actions. He created more unwanted pregnancies, and more babies with HIV. Trump’s act is likely to do the same.

After a weekend of euphoric, inspiring feminist solidarity, this is a heavy blow for women, and I have no doubt the men who marched alongside us will feel the same. But we will not give up the fight. We can help to plug the funding gap with donations, and UK readers can take part in the 10 actions being suggested by the Women’s March on London over the coming days – the first of which involves writing to Theresa May to ask her to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to human rights when she meets Trump. Remember that hope is not lost, that the events of this year will help to politicise a whole generation of future activists who believe in the human rights of women and girls. To quote The Handmaid’s Tale: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” They will not win.

Source: The Guardian



The ‘global gag rule’ strips funding from vital reproductive services around the world. For many women, that will mean a return to life-threatening practices

In the mass of protesters thronging the National Mall in Washington DC on Saturday, one sign stood out to me. It was a wire clothes hanger mounted on cardboard, held by a young woman of color in pigtails. “Never again,” it read.

As it turns out, for poor women overseas, never was only as far away as Monday.

Donald Trump used his first full day as president to reinstate a Reagan-era executive order that will have a devastating impact on those with the fewest resources: women and girls in impoverished parts of the word. The order, best known as the “global gag rule,” will strip funding from any international NGO that provides abortions services, or even discusses abortion with patients seeking educational materials or referrals.

Study upon study has shown eliminating access to abortion services doesn’t eliminate abortions, it just forces women underground into dangerous situations.

For a guy who has been billed as a populist, it’s perhaps surprising that having roughly half a million people – three times the number that attended his inauguration – flood the streets of Washington has done nothing to alter his policy.

It did, however, do something else: it hurt the president’s feelings.

Trump’s defining qualities as a child, according to multiple biographers I spoke with, is that of a schoolyard bully. And it’s the rare thing about him that hasn’t changed. That’s why the fact that he dedicated one of his first acts in office to undermining the rights of women seems to me like something close to tit for tat.

Because Trump has been outspoken with regard to the other executive orders he signed off on Monday – instituting a federal hiring freeze, and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But he hasn’t made a point of talking about abortion access unless asked. While it’s true executive’s implementation of the “global gag rule” has historically been reversed as soon as the opposite party takes over the White House, previous proponents – Ronald Reagan and George W Bush – ran on platforms of social conservatism. Trump was less easy to pin down. As he told Howard Stern of his stance on abortion in 2013: “it’s never been my big issue.”

Trump seemed to have outsourced the question to his running mate Mike Pence, a staunch anti-abortion advocate whose selection by Trump was widely seen as a peace offering to evangelical voters alienated by Trump’s lifestyle. The peace offering workedand Trump won evangelicals in a landslide.

But illusions Trump would, as he put it in a fleeting election night gesture, “be the president of everybody,” just went out the window. “The president, it’s no secret, has made it very clear he’s a pro-life president,” his spokesman Sean Spicer said in the first White House press briefing. “He wants to stand up for all Americans including the unborn.”

It’s quite the way to describe the gutting of a policy that’s spared an estimated 289,000 women from pregnancy- or childbirth-related deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

And it’s not just about abortion. Service providers denied funding under the gag rule could be stripped of the ability to carry out even the most basic women’s healthcare, as global family planning group Population Action International (PAI) has previously reported, resulting in the collapse of entire healthcare networks. WHO estimates 21 million unsafe abortions are performed globally each year, resulting in nearly 13% of all maternal deaths globally. And Marie Stopes International, a major global family planning advocacy group, estimates the loss of its services alone could mean 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.1 million unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths in Trump’s first term alone.

PAI puts it even starker terms: “The only goal the policy will achieve is to punish women in already challenging circumstances by blocking access to essential care.”

If Trump’s desire to “punish” women sounds familiar, that’s because, well, it should. In March of last year he said those seeking abortions should endure “some form of punishment” for doing so. And while yes, he walked back his tone-deaf statement in the explosive political aftermath, his actions Monday spoke louder than words.

Source: The Guardian



Crowds in hundreds of cities around the world gathered Saturday in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington.

Source: New York Times


On Thursday, Iowa’s Republican Representative Steve King introduced a bill in Congress that would constitute a total abortion ban on a federal level, Rewire reports.

H.R. 490 (legislative text found here) would prohibit abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — a time period before many women know they’re pregnant.

“Since Roe v. Wade was unconstitutionally decided in 1973, nearly 60 million innocent babies’ lives have been ended by the abortion industry, all with a rubber stamp by the federal government,” King said in a Thursday press release from his office. “If a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected.”

King reportedly worked on the bill with Janet Porter of Faith2Action; per Right Wing Watch, Porter said that “when she recently attended Phyllis Schlafly’s funeral, she was able to speak with King and convince him to introduce a federal version of her bill.”*

H.R. 490 is similar to the Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which failed when Governor John Kasich vetoed the portion that would restrict abortion at six weeks (a 20-week ban was still instituted).

As for H.R. 490, it’s unlikely that it will pass in the House and far more unlikely that it would in the Senate. But even the introduction of such extreme legislation points to the increased attempts to dismantle Roe v. Wade we’ll see on a federal level under this administration.


Source: NY Mag

Court rulings in several states have created a patchwork when it comes to what jail and prison administrators are required to do when a woman inmate requests an abortion. Here’s a look at four of the cases that presented that question. Video by Stacey Barchenger / The Tennessean. Wochit

  • A woman has filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville against Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland.
  • The woman says she was denied an abortion while in custody, in violation of her constitutional rights.
  • She had the child in April and wants a judge to order the sheriff to pay damages of $1.5 million.
  • Courts have generally recognized an inmate’s right to an abortion, but there is still some gray area.


A Tennessee sheriff is named in a civil lawsuit after he denied a 29-year-old inmate access to an abortion, saying the woman’s life was not in danger and her pregnancy was not the result of a crime, according to newly filed court papers.

The woman, Kei’Choura Cathey, was not released until it was too late for the procedure and had the child in April, the court filing says. Her lawsuit alleges Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland illegally denied her access to an abortion, which the nation’s top court has protected as a woman’s right for decades.

The case, and others around the country, pose questions about what obligations top law enforcement officers have when women who are incarcerated request abortions.

“Courts have generally said prisoners retain their right to access abortion even if they’re incarcerated,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

But there’s still some gray area, including on questions of who has to pay and whether a judge’s order is necessary, because each case is different and presents different circumstances for a judge to consider. And the high court has not weighed in.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has not spoken on this issue, so we don’t have a definitive answer on some of these questions,” Amiri said. “Because different cases raise different facts, it’s a little bit of a patchwork.”

More than 10 years ago, in a controversial Knoxville case, a federal judge allowed an inmate temporary release to get an abortion, saying the woman had a constitutional right to the procedure. And in 2008 the nation’s top court let stand a ruling out of Arizona that overturned a county policy banning off-site elective procedures.

Amiri and the ACLU brought that legal challenge in Arizona. The national civil rights organization is not involved in the pending case against Maury County.

A highly publicized case in 2015 in Alabama detailed a sheriff’s refusal to allow a 29-year-old inmate to have the procedure, saying she needed a court order. The ensuing legal battle ended in federal court when the woman decided to keep the child, according to media reports.

Cathey, also 29, was arrested in July 2015 on robbery and murder conspiracy charges and found out weeks later she was pregnant, according to the lawsuit. Columbia police records say she and three others lured Javontay Garrett to a home to steal drugs and money and then shot him. Garrett lived despite the head wound, according to Brent Cooper, the district attorney in Maury and three other counties.

Weeks later Cathey told Rowland, via her lawyer, that she wanted to have an abortion, but Rowland responded that he would not provide funding or transportation for the procedure, the lawsuit states. Rowland said that would not happen unless the abortion was “medically necessary to save the mother’s life or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest,” according to the lawsuit.

The sheriff did not return an email and several calls from The Tennessean seeking comment, and the county has not yet responded to the lawsuit. Cathey’s lawyer, Lee Brooks of Columbia, also did not respond to calls or an email.

Brooks says in the lawsuit he attempted to get a lower bond, but by the time Cathey was able to post that amount it was January 2016 and too late to have the procedure. The lawsuit does not say whether Cathey also asked a judge to allow her release; a court clerk said no such motion was in the court file.

The child was born in April.

The case was filed Dec. 29 in federal court in Nashville. It argues that the sheriff’s denial, and his failure to have department policies that allowed access to abortions, inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on Cathey in violation of her Eighth Amendment rights. It also says Cathey’s civil rights and 14th Amendment rights to due process were violated.

Now, she wants a judge to order the sheriff and Maury County to pay her $1.5 million in damages.


Source: The Tennessean