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Living in the Crosshairs: Violence Against Abortion Providers Hurts Us All

cohen.jpgBy David S. Cohen, Professor of Law, Drexel University

In an ideal world, abortion providers would lead lives just like any other medical professional. However, in the highly charged environment we live in, abortion providers’ lives are different. Because of their work, providers have been murdered, shot, kidnapped, assaulted, stalked and subjected to death threats. Their clinics have been bombed, attacked with noxious chemicals, invaded, vandalized, burglarized and set ablaze. Individual abortion providers have been picketed at home and have received harassing mail and phone calls. Their family members have been followed where they work, their children have been protested at school and their neighbors’ privacy has been invaded.
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February 2, 2016

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"Someone You Love Has Had an Abortion: It's Time To End the Silence,"Debra Hauser, Salon: Commemorating the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Hauser, who is the executive director of Advocates for Youth, writes, "[I]n a nation in which one in three women will get an abortion in her lifetime -- including me -- chances are that you love someone who has had an abortion, but you might not know about it." She states, "With a statistic like that, there's no shortage of stories about the need for safe, affordable abortion access. We just need to tell them." Citing the rapid increase in state-level abortion restrictions over the past decade, Hauser writes, "If you listen to the antiabortion right, they will claim that abortion is still 'legal,' even as they create an atmosphere to make it nearly impossible for women to obtain medical care." She points to anupcoming Supreme Court ruling over provisions in Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), writing that individuals' personal abortion stories make this case particularly significant because their experiences call into question antiabortion-rights lawmakers' claims about protecting women's health. Hauser praises the recent increase in shared abortion storytelling, such as the Twitter hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion and Advocate for Youth's 1 in 3 Campaign, writing, "Telling our stories isn't just an effective response to those who aim to limit access to women's health services; it's also a way to connect with and motivate each other." Noting that the "Supreme Court justices need to hear the real effects of restrictive abortion laws on women," Hauser concludes, "It is essential to center stories of real abortion experiences like mine or those of Texas women in the debate about our country's abortion policies and keep Americans aware of the mounting attempts to place 'undue burdens' on access to abortion care" (Hauser, Salon, 1/29).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement and access to care:

~ "Zika Virus and the Hypocrisy of Telling Women To Delay Pregnancy," Emma Saloranta, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Siri, Find Me an Abortion Provider: Apple's Weird Anti-Choice Glitch Is Finally on Its Way Out," Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon.

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"The Flint Water Emergency Is a Reproductive Health Crisis," Kanya D'Almeida, RH Reality Check: D'Almeida writes about the reproductive health implications of the Flint water crisis, a state and federal emergency which has resulted in lead poisoning among Flint, Mich., residents and which "has particularly serious consequences for maternal and child health." According to D'Almeida, "Reproductive justice advocates say the situation in Flint not only represents a local public health emergency but also mirrors a larger crisis of reproductive justice for low-income women of color around the country." D'Almeida writes, "For reproductive health-care providers, the decision to respond to calls from the community was an obvious one." According to D'Almeida, Planned Parenthood's Flint clinic, "which sees about 3,200 patients annually, amounting to close to 7,000 visits each year, initially distributed water filters in partnership with the Flint Health Department, and later began to hand out free bottled water." D'Almeida points to Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan outreach manager, Tunde Olaniran, who raised concerns about the crisis to Planned Parenthood after "'listening to the voices of women of color and [local] organizations like the Genesee County Healthy Sexuality Coalition and the Coalition for Clean Water, who were talking about the toxicity of water long before any reports were released.'" According to D'Almeida, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Flint continues to care for people affected by the water crisis, such as by "urging women to 'pump and dump' their breast milk, especially if they haven't been tested; advising men on the possibility of lead contamination reducing their sperm count; and handing out resources, including lists of where testing is being done" (D'Almeida, RH Reality Check, 1/26).

What others are saying about reproductive justice:

~ "Why Planned Parenthood Was One of the First To Combat the Flint Water Crisis," Bryce Covert, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."


January 29, 2016

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"43 Years After Roe v. Wade, It's Back to the Supreme Court To Block a Dangerous Sham Law Out of Texas," Nancy Northup, Salon: "One month from now we'll be taking" the fight for abortion rights "back to Washington and asking the Supreme Court to protect this essential right once again by blocking a dangerous sham law [HB 2] out of Texas," Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, writes. Northup explains that the Supreme Court legalized abortion 43 years ago under its "historic Roe v. Wade decision," and "affirmed [the Roe] decision's essential holdings" in its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Caseydecision. Northup states that Planned Parenthood v. Casey "established a standard rejecting as unconstitutional any law with 'the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion,' and declared that 'unnecessary health regulations' would not stand." Nonetheless, "opponents of Roe recognized early on that a right does not need to be overturned if it can be undermined," Northup writes, noting that abortion-rights opponents remained "determined to regulate Roe out of existence" even after the Casey ruling. She explains that while Texas lawmakers allege that the HB 2 was designed to protect women's health "[i]n order to skirt the standard established in Casey," their "deception is not terribly hard to see through." According to Northup, leading health and medical organizations "have denounced HB2 as not only arbitrary, but likely to increase the risk of harm to women's health," and some supporters of the law "have been perfectly clear about their ultimate objective" to target the Roe ruling. Noting that an unfavorable ruling from the Supreme Court would be "catastrophic," she concludes, "[T]hankfully the right decision is also the same decision the Supreme Court has stood behind for 43 years, first in Roe and then in Casey: that our Constitution protects a woman's right to make her own decisions about her health and family" (Northup,Salon, 1/26). What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Florida Lawmakers Want To Make Abortion a Felony, Advance Bill Citing 'The Creator,'" Nora Caplan-Bricker, Slate's "XX Factor."

~ "Florida Man Visits State House, Warns that Abortion Will Destroy 'White Culture,'" Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."

~ "Kansas Blocks D&E Bans Again, but That Won't Stop States From Introducing Them," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "Texas' Anti-Abortion Law Is Having a Predictably Terrible Effect on Women," Lily Wujek, Ms. Magazine blog.

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"How the Nationwide Crusade Against Planned Parenthood Is Failing, in One Map," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "Think Progress": A Texas grand jury's decision "not to indict Planned Parenthood" following the Center for Medical Progress' release ofmisleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation "provid[es] more confirmation that there's no solid evidence to support the accusations against the national women's health organization," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler writes that the "trend goes far beyond Texas," noting that several conservative lawmaker-led "investigations into Planned Parenthood's activities haven't turned up any proof that the organization is breaking the law." She highlights a map that shows that "11 other states -- Kansas, Florida, Ohio, Washington, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and South Dakota -- have ... concluded their investigations into Planned Parenthood by clearing the organization of any wrongdoing." Further, she notes that an additional eight states "determined they don't have enough evidence against Planned Parenthood to justify conducting an investigation in the first place." Nonetheless, the "mounting evidence" clearing Planned Parenthood "hasn't been persuasive to" conservative lawmakers, she writes, citing the five separate congressional "committees dedicated to investigating Planned Parenthood" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 1/26).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "The Anti-Abortion Activists Targeting Planned Parenthood Have a Slew of Legal Troubles," Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "David Daleiden's No Journalist: His Attack on Planned Parenthood Was One Thing -- a Failed Takedown Operation," Amanda Marcotte,Salon.

~ "Seth Meyers: Defund 'Planned Bullsh*t' Not Planned Parenthood," Matt Wilstein, Daily Beast.

January 26, 2016

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"It's Now or Never for Reproductive Rights," Ilyse Hogue,Huffington Post blogs: "As we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, we also face growing and imminent threats to that right," Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, writes. She explains that while Roe "opened the door for women to start making [reproductive health] decisions on their own terms," there has been a "deliberate, systematic attempt by organized forces who see stopping abortion as a critical way to stop the strides that women have made." According to Hogue, "These efforts make Roe a policy anomaly. It's long been accepted as law, with the support of seven in 10 Americans, but thanks to conservative lawmakers it has become almost impossible to access it in many states." She writes, "State by state, county by county, new laws are being enacted under the ruse of improving the health and safety of women, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures done in the United States," adding, "The only thing unsafe about abortion is its existence as a right for all." Hogue notes that the Supreme Court this year will consider Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, "a case that gets to the heart of what it means to have access to our rights," as well another case, a "challengeto the mandate that all American women be allowed access to birth control through their insurance -- regardless of the personal politics of their employer." Noting that "[r]eproductive freedom is an equalizer that allows women economic freedom," Hogue calls on "men and women who identify as pro-choice" to protect abortion rights "for the growing number of women and families who can no longer access it, and for future generations of Americans who deserve the same freedoms that we have relied on" (Hogue, Huffington Post blogs, 1/21).

What others are saying about the Roe v. Wade anniversary:

~ "#Roe43: What Every (Progressive) Boy Should Know," Soraya Chemaly, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "43 Years After Roe v. Wade, Battle for Abortion Access Is Far From Over," Joan Malin, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "On Roe Anniversary, Let's Remember the U.S. Women for Whom Abortion Is a Right on Paper Only," Heather Boonstra, Ms. Magazine blog.

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"How Many Abortion Providers Are There in Your State? The Numbers Have Dropped & It's a Growing Problem -- Infographic,"Emma Cueto, Bustle: Cueto shares several infographics based on data from the Guttmacher Institute that show how the number of abortion providers per state has declined since abortion-rights opponents began pushing "a wave of legislation designed to make abortions more difficult to obtain." Cueto explains that "more bills aimed at restricting abortion were passed between 2011 and 2013 than were passed in the entire previous decade," adding that "2014 and 2015 have only brought on more." According to the Guttmacher Institute, "more than a third of women in the United States live in a county without an abortion provider," Cueto writes, adding that "most states have lost at least one abortion provider in recent years." She notes, "Overall, there were 73 fewer abortion providers in the country in 2011, a four percent decline from 2008." While a few states "gained more abortion providers, many more states saw the number of abortion providers decline, in some cases dramatically," such as New York, which "lost 24 abortion providers between 2008 and 2009," Cueto writes. According to Cueto, data show that "so many states clearly don't have enough providers," including North Dakota, which "still only has one" clinic, and Idaho, which has 44 counties "but only had four abortion providers in 2011." Noting that "things have already gone far enough," Cueto concludes, "The fact that people who disagree [with Roe] are trying to go around the courts to deny women practical access to these rights is just plain wrong and needs to stop" (Cueto, Bustle, 1/22).

What others are saying about access to care:

~ "5 Charts That Show the Bleak State of Abortion Rights," Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Pro-Life Fanatics Want You To Think Abortion Clinics Are Terrifying Places; Here's What One Really Looks Like," Danielle Campoamor, Salon.


January 22, 2016

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"Women Are Still Being Denied the Full Benefits of Roe v. Wade," Heidi Williamson, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "At this point," on the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, "many Americans may assume that it's easier than ever to access abortion services -- but nothing could be further from the truth," Williamson writes. According to Williamson, "Roe was profound not only because it affirmed women's basic right to health care and well-being through abortion care, but also because it ushered in medical standards and regulations that ensured women were safe during the procedure," helped "bolste[r] the success of the then-newly established Title X program" and strengthened women's "ability to pursue educational and economic opportunities." However, despite these advances, "women have been denied the full benefits of Roe for decades," she writes, pointing to the Hyde Amendment and the "undue burden" standard established in the Supreme Court's 1992 Planned Parenthood [v.] Casey decision. Williamson writes, "Ever since [the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision], , states have increasingly sought ways to encroach upon a woman's ability to access abortion care. More than 200 state-level abortion restrictions have been enacted since 2010 -- almost the same number as the total number enacted in the 15 previous years." The Supreme Court this year will consider "Whole [Woman's] Health v. Cole, the most significant women's health case since Casey," Williamson continues, noting that the high court could either "affirm Roe in a manner that enables the right to abortion and ensures access for the most vulnerable women in Texas" or further restrict women's right to abortion by upholding the law (HB 2) and permitting states "to restrict other reproductive health procedures through legislation that is neither medically necessary nor grounded in evidence." She concludes, "On this 43rd anniversary of Roe, we must reflect on how far we are from realizing its promise and recommit ourselves to ensuring universal access to reproductive health services that includes abortion access for all women in need -- regardless of their race, zip code, region, or source of insurance" (Williamson, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress,1/21).

What others are saying about the Roe v. Wade anniversary:

~ "How Roe v. Wade Survived 43 Years of Abortion Wars," Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones.

~ "8 Stories That Show What Abortion Was Like Before Roe v. Wade," Stephanie Hallett, Ms. Magazineblog.

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"43 Years Later, Anti-Choice Advocates Continue To Ignore 'Roe,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "Forty-three years after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, ... when it comes to abortion rights" the "legal landscape [is] arguably as hostile and confusing for many pregnant patients as it was before Roe," Mason Pieklo writes. For example, Mason Pieklo highlights Texas' HB 2 -- an omnibus antiabortion-rights law that includes targeted regulations of abortion providers -- and a pending Supreme Court challenge to the measure, noting, "Should the State of Texas succeed in defending those restrictions this spring before the [Supreme] Court, the result could be a fresh new wave of abortion clinic closures across the country." Further, as TRAP laws cause reproductive health care providers to close, patients will increasingly "have onlyCatholic facilities from which they can seek services," Mason Pieklo notes. She continues, "[W]ith those facilities refusing to provide contraception, abortion, sterilization, or related reproductive health care to [their] patients ... what good is a constitutional right to abortion if doctors and hospitals can legally refuse to provide it?" In addition, Mason Pieklo draws attention to a case in Tennessee in which a woman was "indicted ... on a charge of attempted murder under the state's general homicide statute" after "allegedly ... attempt[ing] to induce her abortion." She writes that this case "send[s] the express message to other pregnant people in Tennessee that should they try and terminate a pregnancy themselves, they will face a choice: Seek medical care for complications and go to prison, or avoid care for any complications altogether." While "the anniversary of Roe v. Wade marks an important milestone for gender equality and ... the reproductive rights movement," it "no longer marks progress forward," Mason Pieklo writes, pointing to the Hyde Amendment and state-level abortion restrictions. She urges "reproductive rights advocates to move past the anniversary," noting that "it's more of a reminder that no matter the law, conservatives will never quit with their attacks on women's bodies and our ability to manage them" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 1/22).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "As Anti-Abortion Groups Gather in D.C., a New High Profile for a Radical Movement," Miranda Blue,Huffington Post blogs.

~ "The Miseducation of California Nurses: Legal Loophole Enables Spread of Anti-Choice Medical Myths," Nicole Knight Shine, RH Reality Check.

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"New Poll Finds Public Is Outraged by Anti-Choice Laws Once They Learn About Them," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "A new national poll commissioned by the National Institute for Reproductive Health ... finds that less than half of voters are aware of" the increasing number of state-level abortion restrictions, "[b]ut once they learn about [this trend], they're not happy about it," Dusenbery writes. According to Dusenbery, the poll found that "[n]early two thirds say these anti-choice laws are taking us in the wrong direction and huge majorities support policy proposals to ... undo them: to ensure, above all, that abortion is regulated based on medical evidence, not politicians' political beliefs." Further, "the poll also found widespread agreement about what the abortion experience should be like: safe, legal, informed by accurate medical information, respectful, supportive, affordable, and without shame," she writes. She adds, "In other words, the vast majority of American voters -- whether they identify as pro-choice or pro-life, whether they think abortion is morally wrong or not, whether they'd personally get one or wouldn't dream of it -- think abortion should be a positive experience for those who do chose it." This finding puts "[the majority of Americans] utterly out of step with the anti-choice extremists currently populating our state legislatures -- a fact they may just not realize." According to Dusenbery, the poll also found that the number of "proactive pro-choice state bills, both proposed and enacted, more than doubled between 2014 and 2015," with 76 such bills passing in 31 states last year. Noting that NIRH has made a "'playbook for abortion rights' that includes dozens of model bills to advance reproductive health and rights," she concludes, "it's past time for those of us with public opinion on our side to get in the game" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 1/21).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Illegal Abortions Onscreen: Depictions of a Pre-'Roe' World," Renee Bracey Sherman/Gretchen Sisson, RH Reality Check.

~ "Reclaiming Roe for Women at Home and Abroad: Time To End Hyde and Helms," Serra Sippel,Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Desperate for Abortion Care, Women in Texas Are Pawning Their Wedding Rings," Callie Beusman, VICE's "Broadly."


January 19, 2016

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"Preventing the Next Kermit Gosnell," David Cohen et al., Slate's "XX Factor": "There are three important reasons that [illegal abortion provider] Kermit Gosnell is not a justification" for the Supreme Court to uphold Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2) in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, despite claims from abortion-rights opponents that "greater restrictions on abortion facilities would prevent future Gosnells," write Cohen, Susan Frietsche and Tara Pfeifer. "First, the story of Kermit Gosnell is not one of under-regulation," the authors state, noting that "Pennsylvania's restrictions on abortion ... were among the nation's toughest, and served as a template for other antiabortion legislatures across the country." Second, the authors explain that "medically unnecessary abortion regulations -- like the Texas regulations at issue before the Supreme Court -- actually help to create the conditions in which marginal or illegal abortion practitioners like Kermit Gosnell can operate" because "the cost and burden of complying with [such restrictions] forces many safe, responsible providers to shut their doors" and "effectively ope[n] the door for rogue practitioners to thrive." Lastly, the authors write that "the restrictions at issue in Texas are also likely to reduce the chance that a responsible, skilled abortion provider will have the opportunity to report the next Kermit Gosnell to authorities." The authors note that "responsible, lawful abortion providers ... for whom patient health and safety are paramount have a strong incentive to root out substandard facilities in order to protect women who need their care as well as their own reputations." They argue that officials should "trea[t] providers as trusted partners" who can serve as "an important source of intelligence about substandard or marginal practitioners" because they have earned patients' trust (Cohen, "XX Factor," Slate, 1/15).

January 15, 2016

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"Reasoning From Experience, On Abortion and Beyond," Alexandra Brodsky, Feministing: "Last week, 113 attorneys signed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs challenging Texas's draconian abortion restrictions [HB 2] in an upcoming Supreme Court case, [Whole Woman's Health v. Cole]," Brodsky writes. According to Brodsky, "The signatories are public defenders and corporate lawyers and anti-discrimination advocates and retired judges ... Each has had an abortion, and attributes her professional success to access." She explains that the brief targets the lawsuit's "likely swing vote," Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has claimed in other abortion-related rulings that women regret abortions. In a "brilliant" strategy, "[t]he amicus signatories push back on Kennedy's misconception from a powerful position: within his own professional community." She continues, "[I]t's also a big deal for the law, period, to see a group of women arguing from personal experience, not despite personal experience." She explains that the brief's signatories challenge a legal tradition of devaluing personal experience, particularly among disadvantaged groups, "[b]y speaking simultaneously as lawyers and as women who have had abortions." Brodsky adds, "They are urging the Court to rule for the clinics because they know the law and because they know abortion. Personal experience doesn't disqualify them from speaking: it positions them perfectly to protest." Pointing to Kennedy, Brodsky concludes, "The Court's decision in [Whole Woman's Health] must rely on the reality of how the clinic restrictions are actually experienced by people in Texas, and how abortion care actually affects patients' lives, not how [Kennedy] imagines it might" (Brodsky, Feministing, 1/13).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "New Ads Counter Anti-Choice Hate Speech, Destigmatize Abortion," Nicole Knight Shine, RH Reality Check.


January 12, 2016

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"The Power of Making Abortion Personal," Emma Green, The Atlantic: As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case challenging Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), Green discusses a "remarkable" amicus brief "representing '113 women in the legal profession who have exercised their constitutional right to an abortion.'" According to Green, the brief "represents the perspectives of people who are trained in the law, but who are also personally familiar with what it means to get an abortion," and "rejects the idea that women should feel shame about having an abortion." She adds that the brief "shortens the sense of distance between those who will decide the legal merits of the case and those whose lives will be affected -- this brief isn't well-educated experts advocating on behalf of women in need, it's well-educated women advocating on behalf of themselves." In addition, "the document also highlights the complexity of abortion as an ethical and legal issue," Green writes, explaining that while "[c]ourt cases necessarily consider questions of justice in the abstract ... deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate choices a woman can make" (Green, The Atlantic, 1/8).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "WLP Supports New Anti-Abortion Clinic Violence & Harassment Bill," Women's Law Project blog.

~ "The Power of Making Abortion Personal, Cont'd," Bodenner, The Atlantic's "Notes."

~ "Meet One of the Litigators Who Will Be Fighting For Abortion Rights at the U.S. Supreme Court," Kristen Barton, Huffington Post blogs.


January 12, 2016

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"The Power of Making Abortion Personal," Emma Green, The Atlantic: As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case challenging Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), Green discusses a "remarkable" amicus brief "representing '113 women in the legal profession who have exercised their constitutional right to an abortion.'" According to Green, the brief "represents the perspectives of people who are trained in the law, but who are also personally familiar with what it means to get an abortion," and "rejects the idea that women should feel shame about having an abortion." She adds that the brief "shortens the sense of distance between those who will decide the legal merits of the case and those whose lives will be affected -- this brief isn't well-educated experts advocating on behalf of women in need, it's well-educated women advocating on behalf of themselves." In addition, "the document also highlights the complexity of abortion as an ethical and legal issue," Green writes, explaining that while "[c]ourt cases necessarily consider questions of justice in the abstract ... deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate choices a woman can make" (Green, The Atlantic, 1/8).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "WLP Supports New Anti-Abortion Clinic Violence & Harassment Bill," Women's Law Project blog.

~ "The Power of Making Abortion Personal, Cont'd," Bodenner, The Atlantic's "Notes."

~ "Meet One of the Litigators Who Will Be Fighting For Abortion Rights at the U.S. Supreme Court," Kristen Barton, Huffington Post blogs.

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"Oregon Kicks 2016 Off by Allowing Over-the-Counter Birth Control," Lindsay Patton, Care2: "Oregon is starting 2016 off right" by becoming "the first state to implement over-the-counter/pharmacist-prescribed birth control," Patton writes. According to Patton, "a [state] law[HB 2879] that allows women to obtain birth control without a prescription ... went into effect on Jan. 1." Under the law, women "will be able to purchase birth control from a pharmacist as long as they fill out a simple health questionnaire that is put in place to make sure there are not any health concerns," Patton explains. She notes that while women younger than 18 "will still need a prescription from their doctor ... the law will have this requirement disappear after a few years." Further, she writes that women "can also purchase a year's supply of birth control at once," which insurance is required to cover. According to Patton, "[p]eople all over the United States are reacting to Oregon's news and demanding that accessible birth control be brought into their own states." She adds, "California, Colorado and Washington all have introduced similar [legislation], with California implementing the law [SB 493] in March." Patton notes that even though pharmacists still are permitted "to turn women away for religious reasons," they are required "to refer the woman somewhere else in order to obtain birth control" in such instances. She concludes by noting that while the Oregon law "is a big deal for reproductive rights, the rest of the nation still has a long way to go. There is still not enough bipartisan support to get over-the-counter birth control available all across the United States" (Patton, Care2, 1/10).

January 8, 2016

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"America and Reproductive Rights: Not Making the Grade,"Robert Walker, Huffington Post blogs: Walker, president of the Population Institute, writes about his organization's "annual 50-state report card on reproductive health and rights." According to the report, 19 states "received a failing grade and the U.S. grade fell from a 'C' to a 'D+,'" he writes. Citing the "physical and political" attacks on Planned Parenthood and the "political assaults on sex education programs," Walker continues, "It all adds up to a bad report card for 2015, and it could get worse in 2016 as Congress inches ever closer to cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, slashing support for comprehensive sex education programs in the schools, and eliminating funding for Title X, the federal program of assistance to family planning clinics serving low-income households." For example, Walker notes that "[w]hile the White House and the Senate successfully blocked" House lawmakers' efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and Title X in 2015, "the efforts to cut funding are unrelenting," with conservative lawmakers sending another bill (HR 3762) targeting Planned Parenthood to President Obama earlier this month. He adds that in addition to state-level assaults on reproductive rights, "the physical assaults on family planning clinics ... are creating a climate of fear that will deter many women from accessing abortion and other services." However, "[t]he news is not all bad," Walker writes, pointing to the 17 states that "received a B- or higher and [the] four states (California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington) [that] received an 'A.'" Nonetheless, Walker cites the increasing disparity in abortion access across the country, noting, "2015 was a bad year for reproductive health and rights in the U.S., but 2016 could be worse" (Walker, Huffington Post blogs, 1/7).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Symposium: Health-Justified Abortion Restrictions Are Not Exempt From Casey's Heightened Scrutiny," Dawn Johnsen, SCOTUSblog.

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"Who's Teaching Sex Ed? And How Can We Do It Better?"Andrea Brand, Our Bodies Ourselves' "Our Bodies, Our Blog": Brand, a Planned Parenthood-certified sexuality educator, discusses the "limited sex education that is provided in public schools" and the need for accurate, comprehensive sexuality education. She highlights "community resources," such as Planned Parenthood's Get Real program, "a comprehensive curriculum ... for use in middle and high schools." Brand also discusses her personal efforts to begin "a girls group for the daughters of some of [her] friends," to "maintain an open dialogue with adolescent girls in a safe, informal environment." While Brand initially expected to hold five meetings, the group has met more than 24 times and is expected to educate the girls as they pass from 7th to 12th grade. "This model is easily replicated ... and it is completely flexible," Brand writes, highlighting an array of publicly available resources and encouraging "more facilitators -- more parents, guardians, grandparents, more trusted adults" to get involved (Brand, "Our Bodies Our Blog," Our Bodies Ourselves, 1/6).

What others are saying about sexuality education & contraceptive access:

~ "The Best & Worst Birth Control Laws in the United States -- Oregon Is the Latest To Join the List," Megan Grant, Bustle.

~ "Jennifer Lawrence Says She Used Planned Parenthood as a Teenager & Here's Why Stories Like Hers Help," Emily Lackey, Bustle.

~ "MTV May Be Partially Responsible For the Lowest Teen Pregnancy Rate in U.S. History, Plus 14 People on What Sex Ed Never Taught Them," Rachel Sanoff, Bustle.

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"Advocates Push for Dignity in Supreme Court Anti-Abortion Law Case,"Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "Opponents of Texas' HB 2 filed more than 40 amicus briefs with the Supreme Court on Monday detailing the devastation the massive anti-abortion omnibus bill and other similar policies have wrought on patient health and safety in the state," Mason Pieklo writes. Mason Pieklo outlines the "diverse coalition of groups and individuals" who submitted amicus briefs, noting that a common theme expressed by all the parties was that a woman's dignity is harmed by HB 2. According to Mason Pieklo, the word 'dignity' has "special constitutional meaning" and was a key concept in previous Supreme Court rulings on sterilization laws and on interracial and same-sex marriage. Further, she notes that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a likely swing vote in the lawsuit, has changed his jurisprudence on dignity since he ruled against abortion rights in his "2007 decision inGonzales v. Carhart." She points to Kennedy's arguments in "last summer's landmark marriage equality decision, Obergefell v. Hodges," in which he "relied heavily on the notion that [state-level] bans [on same-sex marriage] ... create significant harm to the dignity of LGBTQ people who wish to marry." In addition, Mason Pieklo writes that "hundreds of women shared their personal stories of [benefiting] from abortion" in the amicus briefs because "[p]ersonal stories also go a long way for Justice Kennedy." She concludes by expressing her belief that abortion-rights supporters' "strategy of appealing to Justice Kennedy and the dignity doctrine through personal stories and detailed analysis of the various harms caused by anti-abortion laws [will] pay off" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 1/6).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "Abortion-Rights Advocates May Have Finally Found a Way To Regulate 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers,'" Nora Caplan-Bricker, Slate's "XX Factor."

December 22, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Our Greatest Fear Has Come To Pass: Coat-Hanger Abortions in Tennessee," Cherisse Scott, RH Reality Check: SisterReach's Scott writes about Anna Yocca, a Tennessee woman who attempted to self-induce an abortion "and was arrested and charged this month with attempted murder." Scott writes that while "we don't know what would have brought Yocca to self-induce," we can try to put ourselves in her position to "better understand why laws seeking to criminalize a health-care procedure do more harm than good, especially when it comes to groups already marginalized in our society." Scott notes that the Tennessee Legislature in the last five years "has made deep cuts in child-care assistance and comprehensive reproductive and sexual health education in schools." Further, pregnant women who use drugs can be prosecuted under the state's fetal assault law, she adds, writing, "Yocca's arrest appears to be a striking indictment of failed public policy, and a precursor of things to come if we don't reverse these trends." She continues, "It is not the job of lawmakers, district attorneys, or health-care workers to police our bodies or pregnancies, or to inflict their personal religious beliefs onto our lives and futures. However, it is the job of Tennesseans to make sure women and girls have access to life- and health-affirming health care." Scott adds, "As advocates, our job is to make sure that no woman on this side of the new millennium should fear arrest or incarceration for trying to end a pregnancy, experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or for seeking medical treatment in any of these circumstances." Scott concludes, "SisterReach is calling on everyone to stand with us and our co-laborers in Tennessee as we demand that the Rutherford County district attorney, the Tennessee legislature, and our fellow residents take a step back to look beyond the shock of what Yocca reportedly did and think about the conditions women and girls in Tennessee are forced to live under -- to what kind of future we want for women and girls across Tennessee" (Scott, RH Reality Check, 12/18).

What others are saying about access to care:

~ "It Shouldn't Take a Superhero To Access Abortion Care in Prison, But in 'Jessica Jones' It Does," Renee Bracey Sherman, RH Reality Check.