God intended what now?

From the Indiana Senate debate between Richard Mourdock (R), Joe Donnelly (D), and Andrew Horning (L):

Asked whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, Mourdock said during Tuesday’s debate, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock has said he regrets that anyone has interpreted him as implying that sexual violence is anything other than abhorrent, but:

 “In answering a question from my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life, and I believe that as wholly and fully as I can believe, that God creates life.”


It couldn’t happen here, could it?

Chip, chip, chippity chip. That’s the steady sound of American legislatures, lawyers, and lobbying groups taking their chisels to what should be solid stone rights, and setting to work eroding them. We’re talking, of course, about abortion and procreative choice: the right to have an abortion; the right to have one freely, unmolested by the state, without shame or guilt; and more generally, the right to choose not only whether to bear a child, but also how to approach one’s own pregnancy and childbirth.

You can now hear an echo of that chipping sound in the UK. Quietly, quite similar tactics are being adopted, not just by protest groups (as noted by Jender here), but also by politicians. The Prime Minister has a consistent record of calling for the time limit on abortions to be reduced. This familiar ploy to curtail the availability of abortion failed in a Commons vote in 2008, but only by 71 votes. Then there’s the astonishing decision (noted by Jore on the Jender thread just mentioned) to give the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion group LIFE a place on the Sexual Health and HIV advisory panel. And finally, the thing that prompted me to write a quick post, the nasty little piece of legislation mentioned here, seven paragraphs down:

an amendment to the health and social care bill that would create a new precondition for women having an abortion to receive advice and counselling from an organisation that does not carry out terminations.

It will be no surprise to anyone familiar with the UK’s politics that Nadine Dorries is responsible for this reprehensible suggestion, along with the former Labour minister Frank Field. It’s not clear just how much chance this amendment has of making it on to the statute books; probably, thankfully, not too large a chance. There’s still a long way to go before the UK forces women to pay for and look at an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. Even so… chip, chip, chip.


Abortion and Teenage Depression?

The first can cause the second, right?  Not exactly; in fact, that looks wrong:

 A press release for the study, which is published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, explains, “The researchers found that young women in the study who had an abortion were no more likely to become depressed or have low self-esteem within the first year of pregnancy — or five years later — than their peers who were pregnant, but did not have an abortion.” The data was pulled from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which surveyed 289 girls between the ages of 13 and 18.

The possibility of psychological harm has been appealed to in arguments for parental notification and pre-abortion warnings.  But now it looks as though the harm may well not be there.

 The truth, according to science, is that “on average, abortion does not appear to have major psychological consequences — for adult women or for teens,” says [lead author Jocelyn] Warren. Marie Harvey, a public health professor at Oregon State University, which conducted the research with the University of California, San Francisco, said: “We have policies being made that are not evidence-based, and that have adverse consequences for women’s health.”

Gosh!  Not evidence-based?!?  Who would have guessed?  It makes it sound as though maybe there’s another agenda being acted on.

Obama’s ‘Women’s Rally for the Change We Need’.

Despite being neither female nor enfranchised, I managed to get a ticket for Barack Obama’s “women’s rally” in Miami (or Coral Gables, to be precise) earlier today.  Most of the media coverage of the event has concentrated on the brief interruption by a group of crackpot protesters, which is a shame, because his speech was pretty interesting.  I must admit, I’ve not been following the campaign too closely, but my general impression has been that both candidates are heavy on rhetoric and light on policy detail.  Today, though, Obama not only talked about issues in general terms, he gave some indication of what, beyond “change”, he might do to address them.

Since this was a women’s rally, most of the things he talked about were “women’s issues”.  The list included childcare, maternity leave, affordable housing and living, the division of labour in families, the glass ceiling, the gendered pay gap, and abortion.  On all of these, in the abstract, he said (what I consider to be) all the right things, which I think you can probably fill in yourself.  When it came to concrete policy commitments, however, things got a bit less reassuring.   Though he spoke for quite a while about his plans for the economy and tax system, and how these would benefit women – or more specifically, mothers – he didn’t give any detail on how he thought he might close the pay gap, remove the glass ceiling, or encourage a fairer division of family work.

That said, just to hear him talk about these issues at all was heartening.  Most notably, and I believe he has been reluctant to do this in the past, he gave a firm, clear commitment to upholding Roe vs Wade, and supporting the right to abortion.  He also – naturally –  attacked John McCain for not being so committed, and for having few or no policies concerning women’s issues, and talked up Joe Biden’s history of being on the side of women (as noted by Jender below).

All in all, then, a satisfactory event, that went some way to allaying my cynicism about the conduct of politics in America.  But one thing in particular still worried me.  Even though Obama did at one point say that “these are not just women’s issues, they affect men too”, the event and speech were aimed at women, and time and again he referred to “women’s issues”, and… well, perhaps it’s true that women do care more then men about childcare, raising families, being able to buy food, being able to afford housing, and so on.  But characterising such things as “women’s issues” is pernicious.  It really shouldn’t be the case that home economics and family matters are seen as exclusively women’s concerns, and hearing this view implicitly endorsed by the next president of the US (jinx!) is rather disappointing.

Fight Assault on Contraception

From the ACLU’s Blog of Rights:

Last Thursday the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released proposed regulations (PDF) that could seriously undermine women’s access to reproductive health services, including birth control and abortion. Now the public has 30 days to let the Bush administration know precisely what we think of these regulations…

What’s really new about these proposed regulations is that they appear to take patients’ health needs out of the equation. They expand the ability of health care workers to refuse to provide complete and accurate information and counseling to women who seek services. Moreover, both the regulations, and Secretary of HHS Michael Leavitt’s public comments about them, leave the door open as to whether institutions and individuals can refuse to provide contraception.

Make no mistake: that lack of clarity is intentional. As the Washington Post reports, “…when pressed about whether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said: ‘This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area.’” Indeed, the Wall Street Journal notes Leavitt’s admission that some medical providers may want to “press the definition.”

The deadline for feedback on this is 20 September, and volume of replies is very important, so please go here— it only takes a few seconds– to let them know what you think.

If contraception is abortion…

then so are breastfeeding and exercise. William Saletan at Slate draws out the consequences of the proposed definition of ‘abortion’. A sample:

Thousands of people working at hospitals, lactation centers, maternity-product retailers, drug stores, and supermarkets are presently required by their employers to participate in breast-feeding, either by teaching it or by providing products that facilitate it. Those who refuse can be terminated at will. They endure this discrimination despite clear scientific evidence that breast-feeding poses the same abortifacient risk as oral contraception.

Thanks, Rachel!

Male Veto For Abortion in Ohio?

In teaching about abortion, one position the students *here* find so appalling as to be barely worth discussing is the idea of a male veto for abortion decisions. But in Ohio, a bill mandating this is being considered. Planned Parenthood of Ohio writes:

One year ago, State Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) introduced one of the most outrageous pieces of legislation we have ever seen. House Bill 287 would require a woman to have the written informed consent of the prospective father of her fetus before being allowed to have an abortion.

That’s right… If the man says “No,” there will be no abortion.Period!

This bill may actually be scheduled for hearings in the coming weeks. To raise awareness about this offensive bill, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio is partnering with ProgressOhio, an outreach organization that builds awareness of legislative issues.

You’re not going to believe this… HB 287 also requires that, if the identity of the prospective
father is unknown, a paternity test must be performed to determine his identity so that his consent could be obtained prior to performing the abortion.

What is left unsaid is that prenatal paternity testing: cannot be performed until at least the 10th week of pregnancy, near the end of the first trimester; is an invasive procedure using a long needle through the abdomen to collect fetal cells; is expensive – up to $2,000 per test;
and poses a potential medical risk. The practical effect of the paternity test requirement would
prevent some women from obtaining an abortion during the first trimester.

Once paternity is established, if the man says “No,” there will be no abortion.

Even worse if… If the pregnancy resulted from rape, the woman would be required
to provide a police report proving it. If the pregnancy resulted from incest, the woman would be
required to provide a paternity test or a police report. If the woman chooses not to identify the prospective father (perhaps out of fear for her own physical well-being), her only recourse would be to continue the pregnancy against her wishes or have an illegal abortion, a first degree misdemeanor.

To sign a petition against it, go here. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)