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10-nov

Donald Trump made some pretty scary threats during the election about cracking down on abortion. Here’s a quick refresher on his campaign promises — and why women have every right to be very worried.

Trump has flip-flopped on abortion, and seems to have adopted a rather extreme stance on the issue. Back in 1999 on an episode of “Meet the Press”, Trump said he “hated” abortion, but being from New York, admitted that he is “pro-choice in every respect”. Fast forward to the recently concluded election, and it’s clear that Trump has changed his tune. In a September 2016 letter addressed to “Pro-Life Leader”, Trump made his position on abortion painfully clear, saying he’s committed to:

  • Nominating pro-life justices to the US Supreme Court
  • Signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as it continues to perform abortions, and reallocating its funding to community health centres that provide comprehensive health care for women
  • Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions

Earlier this year, Trump said that abortions are “not acceptable”, and that women who try to obtain them should be subject “to some form of punishment“. Following a public outcry, Trump backtracked on his remarks, saying it’s not women who should be punished for having an abortion, but the doctors who perform the procedure.

As noted in his September letter, and as he remarked during the final presidential debate on October 19, Trump is particularly opposed to so-called “partial-birth” abortions, or what doctors call intact dilation and extraction. According to US federal law, this late-term procedure is acceptable if the life of the mother is at stake. But during the last debate, Trump didn’t seem to care, saying, “in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother,” adding that it can happen “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”

But as noted by the Guttmacher Institute, 90 per cent of all abortions take place within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A mere 1.5 per cent of abortions take place beyond the 20 week mark, the vast majority of which happen before the 24 week mark. Thankfully, this issue won’t affect most women, but that’s small consolation for those whose lives might depend on it.

The Trump Administration’s approach to Planned Parenthood in particular is all but certain to be a nightmare. The organisation provides services for millions of women (and men), including sexual education and reproductive healthcare. But that hasn’t done much to thwart a largely Republican effort to completely strip it of resources and power. It’s a coordinated campaign that’s been taking place at the Congressional level for some time now; a Trump administration could bring an entirely new dimension of power into the mix.

Mike Pence, in particular, has consistently positioned himself as an opponent to the organisation. In October, during a speech at Liberty University, he promised that “a Trump-Pence administration will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those dollars to women’s health care that doesn’t provide abortion services”. In 2011, the House of Representatives passed a bill co-sponsored by Pence to defund the group.

“He’s been called a one-man crusade against Planned Parenthood, and he got his start going after them earlier than most. I would definitely call him an extremist,” Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic representative for Illinois, told the Guardian in July.

Following Trump’s victory yesterday, pro-life activists cheered. It’s an ominous sign of what’s to come, though public opposition will be formidable. “Trump would ban abortion, and eliminate women’s ability to have birth control covered by health insurance,” noted Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a CNN article. “A Trump presidency would be a disaster for women.”

Indeed, Trump could threaten women’s procreative liberties by making it much more difficult to acquire birth control. As it stands, birth-control pills are free under the Affordable Care Act, but Trump says he wants Congress to repeal this act as soon as possible. In the very near future, it could be more difficult for women to avoid getting pregnant and getting an abortion. It suddenly feels like the 19th century.

American pro-choice women are not going to relinquish their right to an abortion without a fight. What’s more, Trump and his Supreme Court justices will have their hands full trying to repeal or find loopholes to Roe V. Wade, the precedent that upholds a woman’s right to an abortion.

Yes, women have a right to be worried, but it may be more difficult — and politically damaging — for Trump to go through with his threats. Sadly, this is a man that doesn’t seem to care about the consequences.

http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/11/donald-trump-is-about-to-declare-war-on-womens-bodies/

Source: GIZMODO

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2nd-november

Despite numerous protests, the Northern Ireland assembly has refused to relax abortion legislation. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

Teenager is taking NHS to supreme court over its refusal to fund abortions for woman from Northern Ireland

Northern Irish teenager who as a fifteen year old had to go to England to terminate a pregnancy, is challenging the NHS’s refusal to fund abortions for women from the region in the supreme court on Wednesday.

The health service has so far refused to pay for abortions for women from Northern Ireland who travel to England for terminations.

The girl, identified as “A”, and her mother are appealing to the supreme court to force the NHS to fund abortions. Their lawyers have described the refusal to financially help women from Northern Ireland who are in crisis pregnancies as “perverse and unlawful”.

Abortion is only available in Northern Ireland’s hospitals when there is a direct threat to the mother’s life if the pregnancy continues. In all other cases abortion is illegal.

Last November, a high court judge ruled that, as it stands, Northern Ireland’s abortion laws violate the rights of women and girls in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or where a pregnancy is the result of a sexual crime.

An estimated 2,000 women travel to English hospitals and clinics from Northern Ireland every year to have terminations. All of these women have to raise money to go to private clinics in England for abortions.

There is strong opposition to liberalising the province’s strict anti-abortion laws across the floor of the Northern Ireland assembly. The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, and a bid to ease the country’s termination laws to include cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and pregnancy via sexual crime was rejected earlier this year.

In the supreme court on Wednesday judges will be told that in 2012, then 15-year old “A travelled to Manchester from Northern Ireland with her mother (B), where she paid £600 for an abortion, on top of £300 in travel costs.

They received charitable assistance from the Abortion Support Network in the sum of £400 without which they could not have afforded the treatment. A and B have since argued in the high court and court of appeal that the cost of the treatment should have been free for them as UK citizens, and that by not enacting this change, Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, has failed in his duty to make NHS procedures reasonably available.

Angela Jackman, a partner at law firm Simpson Millar, has been representing A & B throughout the legal process.

Jackman said: “For women in Northern Ireland who are pregnant and seek a termination, the status quo is almost unbearable. I believe the legal arguments of the secretary of State are perverse and contrary to its international obligations. Many women face the choice between an unlawful termination using dangerous and illegal pills, with the prospect of prosecution to follow, or a costly journey to England where they must pay privately for an abortion. For many women, those costs are prohibitive.”

She continued: “This is the end of a long and significant domestic journey. I am pleased that the issue is finally being given due consideration by the supreme court, the importance of which cannot be underestimated.”

The supreme court has recently granted six national charities the right to intervene in the A and B case.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the Family Planning Association, Alliance for Choice, Abortion Support Network, Birthright and the British Humanist Association have been granted permission to provide their perspectives on the issue in the supreme cCourt hearing.

Jackman added: “I am pleased that the court has permitted these six charities to provide submissions in this case. Through their efforts in providing advice and assistance to women like ‘A’, and campaigning for the reproductive choices of women, these charities can offer invaluable insight into the reality of the situation for the court’s consideration.”

The British Humanist Association’s director of public affairs and policy, Pavan Dhaliwal, said denying women from Northern Ireland in crisis pregnancies support was putting their lives at risk.

“Our government’s stance in refusing women from Northern Ireland safe and legal abortion on the NHS is shameful and we believe it is a breach of human rights laws. The supreme court judges have an opportunity to rectify a situation which currently causes undue distress to hundreds of women and leaves many more with no choice but to buy illegal abortion pills online,” he said.

The case will concern A and B versus the secretary of state for health. The arguments will be heard in front of five judges at the one-day hearing.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/02/northern-ireland-nhs-abortions-supreme-court-law

Source: The Guardian

Daily BeastNational Right to Life, Family Research Council, and other anti-abortion organizations have been enthusiastically spreading the word about a study published in the New England Medical Journal showing that a fetus can be viable if born at 22 weeks gestation with advanced medical intervention. A New York Times article about the study was very clear that survival was for a “tiny minority” and that 24 weeks remains the medically and scientifically accepted point of viability.  Nonetheless, as all sides in politically polarized issues tend to do, abortion opponents have focused on sharing the headline of the study and not the details. Although coincidental, the publication of the study is perfectly timed with the U.S. House of Representatives passing the 20-week abortion ban, which the Senate will now consider.

Predictably, those who oppose abortion see the study as the proof needed to ban late term abortions, also suggesting that viability age should be lowered. They are appealing to our hearts through survival babies, giving the false impression that at 22 weeks most fetuses can survive outside of the womb. Many who believe that late term abortions must be legally available might even agree with them if the study was conclusive. It is not.

There are important medical-scientific limitations to babies born before 24 weeks. When pregnant women either go into labor early or a medical complication otherwise comrpomises the pregnancy, doctors discuss available medical interventions and the prospective outcomes of each on the fetus. Not all hospitals have the technology or equipment most able to produce a live birth and not all parents choose to have those interventions. Indeed, it is those very women who may choose a late term abortion to save their own lives or spare their wanted child a life of poor health. Much as they felt joy at being pregnant, life offered them a heartbreaking complication. No one has the right to judge the decision they make, certainly not Congress or political opponents of abortion.22 week fetus

In a column for the Daily Beast, Cornell Professor of Pediatrics Jeffrey Perlman noted in more eloquent terms that the study had serious biases and design flaws and should not lead to lowering the age of viability. For that to make sense, a randomized study with and without medical intervention would be necessary. Perlman also pointed out that the research would have to account for  a range of factors, such as gender differences in fetal development and accurate estimates of the age of the fetus to name a couple.

I am personally very grateful for the medical advances that have made it possible for premature babies to survive and live healthy, productive lives. I have significant reservations about the use of technology to force life too early to ensure health and quality, just as I do with sustaining life too long when people are confined to a bed with no consciousness and only technology allowing them to breathe.  All of us know of children born with disabilities or conditions that require lifelong care. That happens and to full term as well as premature babies. Families accept and embrace the children, adjusting and growing with the child. The acceptance that society places on these children and the value they place on supporting them and their families is evident through public policies, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and various educational reforms.

If a 22-week-old fetus can receive medical assistance and survive, how should medical experts and ethicists respond in the future, if at all, to the prospect of lowering the stage of viability if technology continues to advance? Are we concerned about the financial and social/personal costs associated with using the technology? There are high costs for the medical technology and there are high costs to care for babies born so early that they must receive medical care throughout life however long or short. What about 22-week gestational stage babies born addicted to drugs? Are we going to complain about the public assistance their moms receive? Will Congress thwart programs that support the care for these babies?

Doctor with laptop and pregnant woman in doctor's officeFor pregnant women in the wrenching situation of unexpectedly delivering a 22-week-old fetus, this study might offer hope if they happen to be at a hospital with the technology and expertise to offer medical intervention that might allow survival of the fetus. For other pregnant women, if this study is improperly used for political gain, and it already is**, instead of hope, it will further erode their options to make decisions they consider best for them and the baby they wanted and may even allow a physician to place priority on the life of the fetus over the woman. Which life is more important?

Instead of having implications for late term abortions and viability, the real issues to come from the study involve ethics and social support. A 22-week-old fetus is not naturally viable. An abortion at 20-22 weeks gestation may well save a woman’s life or spare a baby a life of pain. Nothing has changed in that regard.

** 5/15-15 update: Political misuse of the study has begun. See http://black.house.gov/press-release/rep-black-lauds-upcoming-house-vote-pain-capable-unborn-child-protection-act and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/opinion/an-abortion-bans-bogus-arguments.html?_r=0

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Mississippi

Mississippi.    

Is there a more pathetic state in the Union?   I mean, does anyone know of a state that is more regressive in terms of income, health, education, baseball teams?   Indeed, can you name a Third World country that is as bad as Mississippi?    

And, now, to push the state even further into the dark ages, their voters on Tuesday will probably pass a resolution that will totally outlaw abortion.  The specific question that the voters will be asked to approve says:  “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?”   Now I can’t imagine anyone in that state who knows what the term “thereof” means, but the gist of this measure is there will be no more abortions and lots more kids to add to the misery that is life in Mississippi.  Indeed, the person who is spearheading this effort, a guy named Les Riley, is the founder of “Personhood Mississippi” and he is the father of TEN children.  I guess old Les is hoping that others in his neck of the woods will bear the same number of kids, if not more, so they can get the classroom sizes up to at least 50 kids per room which would push their rate of academic achievement below that of Somalia.  Quite a role model, that Les!

The interesting thing about this resolution is that many “mainstream” pro-life groups actually oppose it because they are smart enough to realize that it is too extreme.  But, it ain’t too extreme for the Bubbas in Mississippi.  Indeed, outlawing abortion ain’t enough for these folks.  An analysis of the resolution shows that certain forms of birth control would be outlawed (thus creating even more children living in poverty) and it would limit in vitro fertilization.  But, for now, let’s stick to the abortion side of the equation. 

This is Johnny, oh wait, Marie, oh wait "it" has no sex yet.

When the measure passes, the next day Planned Parenthood will challenge it in court and the lower courts will grant an injunction prohibiting the measure from going into effect.  Here’s the thing, however.  Let’s say Mitt Romney (or one of the other Republican nominees) becomes President in 2013.  Despite his previous support for the right to choose, he has now courageously “seen the light” and is all of a sudden pro-life.  What a guy, a true Profile in Courage.  As President, he would be beholden to the pro-life movement and

sooner or later some more Supreme Court judges are going to kick the bucket.  That means that Romney (or, conversely, Obama) might get to make 2 or 3 appointments.  If it’s Romney, you know damn well he is going to appoint judges who are pro-life and that could tip the scales. 

Yes, many lawyers suggest that the court could not uphold a measure like this because of “legal precedent.”  That’s garbage.  It might have been the case years ago when our judicial system, not to mention the executive and legislative branches, were more deferential to their body’s previous actions but not anymore.  I am convinced that when the Supreme Court gets this (or any other) case, the justices, with the possible exception of Justice Kennedy, make up their minds immediately, then instruct their clerks to construct their rationalization.  If you think they sit there objectively, listening intently to the arguments of the learned counsel then come to a decision, you’re in La La land.  I mean, think about it.  Do you really think Clarence Thomas and Anton Scalia would NOT find a way to uphold the Mississippi law?  

So, this case will ultimately make it to the Supreme Court in a few years.  And that makes the next Presidential election so extremely important when it comes to abortion rights.  I feel like we’ve been through this drill before, but this time it’s extremely serious. 

Abortion Clinic Bombed

I was talking to an old friend of mine yesterday, a doctor who used to perform abortions in the Midwest years ago.  He retired in 2004 and in the course of the conversation we started talking about, as he put it, the “wild west days” when the bullets were flying and the bombs exploding at abortion clinics all across the country.  He then expressed his concern that the younger activists do not remember or just simply did not know what was going on in this country at that time.

As a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I was in the middle of it all.  Our office served as one of the “command posts” that sprung into action when the crap hit the fan.  The minute we got the news about a shooting or any other kind of violent act, we would send out an “Emergency Fax” to all of our clinics alerting them about the incident.  The main reason why we did this was to simply let them know that one of their colleagues had been involved in some heinous act and more often than not the other clinics would communicate their concerns and well wishes to their friends who had just joined the growing number of victims of anti-abortion violence.  In essence, we generated a nationwide group hug.

After talking to this doctor, I started to think about the particularly “bad” years and 1997-1998 was a period that really stuck out in my mind.  Yes, by that time several doctors had been murdered and other acts of violence had been committed, but this time period was a particularly bad one:

In January, 1997, a bomb exploded outside an office building in Atlanta that housed an abortion clinic.  Then, an hour later, while the police and rescue workers were still on the scene, another bomb exploded near a trash can. Seven people were injured;

In March, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the window of Family Planning Associates and an anti-abortion advocate drove his truck through the doors of another clinic in the area.  Two weeks later, four fires were set on the roof of the Mountain Country Women’s Clinic in Montana;

In May, an arsonist drove up to the Lovejoy Surgi-Center, ran a hose from a metal drum containing an unidentified flammable liquid into the clinic and ignited it.  A month later, an incendiary device was thrown through a hole cut into the air conditioning duct on the roof of the West Alabama Women’s Center;

A few months later, a bomb exploded at the New Woman All Women Health Care in Alabama killing an off duty policeman and critically injuring a nurse.  Five months later, in the space of one week there were eight butyric acid attacks on clinics in Florida.  In these cases, the assailant injected the acid into the clinic using a syringe and because of the horrific and noxious smell, the clinics had to be evacuated, washed down and closed for several days.  This incident started a spate of similar attacks over the next few months;

Towards the end of 1998, my good friend, Doctor Barnett Slepian, was murdered in upstate New York when anti-abortion activist James Kopp fired a shot through a window in his house.

This list is, of course, a small sampling of what was going on in those days.  And, as I read this list and recall the people involved, I honestly do get chills.  I can remember the fear, the loss, the insanity and the sense of helplessness that overwhelmed all of us.

Today, there is less violence when compared to those days but that is no consolation.  History can repeat itself and so every so often I intend to write about an incident or two in more detail in the hopes of reminding those coming up behind us of the sacrifices made by the doctors, the staff and others in defending the right to choose abortion.  I also look forward to seeing our friends in the pro-life movement condemning the violence.

Protestors Holdilg Gross Sigs

Protestors Holdilg Gross Signs

It goes without saying that the abortion issue is probably the most controversial issue of our time.  Beginning in earnest after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v Wade, the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” forces have been going at for years – and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.  And if you read the polls, it’s really had to say what side is actually “winning.”  Indeed, I’m not even sure how you determine who is winning.  The bottom line is I know abortion is still legal in this country but they are harder to get.  You decide.

Some even go so far to say we are in a “war” over abortion, although I wouldn’t go that far because to me a “war” is when two sides are engaging in violence and, as far as I can tell, the only violent acts have come from the pro-life side (and please, if you are pro-life, do not bore me with the “violence in the womb” argument).  But, for the moment let’s say we are engaged in a war.   The question now is how far are you willing to go to win this war?  In the world of international relations, somewhere along the line we came up with the rules of the Geneva Convention which set some boundaries for conduct that warring parties are supposed to adhere to (although not everyone complies).  In this abortion “war”, I think there should be boundaries as well.  And recently, one pro-life group crossed a boundary that makes my head spin.

By now, everyone involved in this issue knows that Doctor Lee Carhart, a physician from Nebraska, has decided to carry on the work of the late Doctor George Tillerby performing later abortions and he

has established a practice in Germantown, Maryland.  He has been there for several months and has been so open about what he is doing that he even gave a front page interview to the Washington Post a short while ago.  I’ve written in the past about how I wish my friend Lee would just “shut up” and do his work quietly (out of fear for his safety), but Lee is not built that way.  He is an advocate as well as a physician.

Not surprisingly, there have been protests at the Germantown clinic.  That’s okay, that’s the First Amendment in action.  I don’t like it but I support their right to be out there on a Saturday yelling and screaming and parading around with their gross signs.  But now here comes a pro-life splinter group with a new tactic that boggles my mind.  It seems these folks found out who owns the office complex where the abortion clinic is located.  Yes, they had enough negative energy stored up that they probably combed the real estate records in the county for his name.  I have no doubt that they probably tried to find out where he lives but have not yet been successful.  But, after discovering the name of the landlord, they found out where his CHILDREN go to SCHOOL.  And, once they discovered that his children went to an elementary school in Maryland, they came up with the idea of picketing the kids’ school!   Yep, they went out there just a few weeks ago during the day and stood in front of the school with their ugly signs and blaring the name of the landlord (and, by reference, his children).

Dr. Carhart and Dr. Tiller

Just think for a second about not just his children, but all of the children as they jumped off the bus, already thinking about their lunch period or recess and then they see this sick group of people holding signs.  When they look closer, they may see the pictures of a dismembered fetus, they may see lots of blood, they might see the word “abortion” in big red letters.  Of course, they are probably too young to even comprehend what is going on but – as this group would say – THEY NEED TO LEARN ABOUT THE HORRORS OF ABORTION!

Who are these nut balls who believe it is up to them to introduce these young children to this difficult issue?  Aren’t they the same ones who scream about parental control?  The thing is I know who they are, they are the ones whose own children will be forced at a very early age to stand outside of an abortion clinic on a beautiful Saturday, be forced to hold a disgusting sign, chant a slogan, scream at the women. And they’ll say their six year old told them they’d rather be out there than playing soccer with their friends.

I have always encouraged a healthy, honest debate on this issue.  But a line has to be drawn somewhere.  Again, I would support their right to do this, but do these folks have no shame?  Besides, from a strategic point of view it’s a pretty stupid thing to do because they are pissing off a lot of parents, even those who are pro-life.

I wonder how these folks would feel if we went to their kid’s school and held up signs of women lying in a pool of blood after a botched abortion?  We could easily do it, we’ve got the pictures.

The difference is we’re too civilized.