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

20-feb-17

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

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/20/roe-v-wade-norma-mccorvey-death-abortion-rights

27-jan-17

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

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/opinion/president-trumps-war-on-women-begins.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&referer=http://m.facebook.com/

26-jan-17

Th

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.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-abortion-rate-2017-story.html

Source: LA times

24-jan-17

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

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/24/photo-trump-womens-rights-protest-reproductive-abortion-developing-contries

24-jan-17

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

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/24/trump-once-said-women-should-be-punished-for-abortion-t

 

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

Source: New York Times

19-jan-2017

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.

http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/01/new-heartbeat-bill-in-congress-would-constitute-a-total-abortion-ban.html

Source: NY Mag