Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • copper iudArizona gubernatorial candidates participated in a televised debate the Monday before last, and nary a word was spoken about reproductive rights. We’re talkin’ radio silence here, peeps. (Democratic Diva)
  • While social issues, such as abortion and religious freedom, haven’t been a dominant part of the conversation in this race, they will absolutely be a dominant part of our next governor’s job. (AZ Central)
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending the use of long-term contraceptives (like IUDs) for teen girls. PPAZ’s medical director agrees! (Public News Service)
  • Who else is ready to party at some legal (and not only ceremonial/symbolic) gay weddings in AZ? Our wish might soon be granted! (Tucson Sentinel)
  • Texas forced the closure of 13 abortion clinics last week, leaving the state’s 5.4 million women of reproductive age with only eight clinics, which are scattered throughout the state and not in convenient locations for many of the women in its most rural areas. Their AG (out-of-touch, privileged white guy) says driving up to 250 miles one way for an abortion is “manageable.” Because, yes, he’s the arbiter of what’s manageable for women of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Ugh. (HuffPo)
  • Maybe if Texas hadn’t banned the safest, most affordable method of abortion (now available in only two states), this wouldn’t be such a hardship. (The Atlantic)
  • Ironically, the states with the most “pro-life” laws on the books provide the most craptacular health (and maternal) care to women. The infant/maternal mortality rates in these places are obscene. In these states (Arizona is one), the babies they force us to have are more likely to die at birth, and so are we in the process of having them. Thanks, conservatives! (Jezebel)
  • In case you weren’t aware, parental consent laws are terrible and pregnant teenagers who want to terminate their pregnancies are completely humiliated and put through the wringer by conservative judges. At a time when they least need it. (Mother Jones)
  • Starting next week, the University of California, San Francisco will commence the first online course on abortion care that’s ever been offered by a U.S. school. Considering there’s such a shortage of doctors who actually know how to perform abortions, it’s a great sign that more than 3,000 students have already signed up for the course. (Think Progress)

Parental Notification Laws: What’s the Harm?

parent teen communicationIf, in 1987, you had asked Bill and Karen Bell if minors should be required to obtain permission from their parents before receiving an abortion, they would have been all for it. It didn’t seem like an extreme or dangerous position — after all, shouldn’t parents have a right to know when a surgical procedure is being performed on their underage children?


Lack of access to effective contraception and safe abortion hurts women.


That all changed in 1988, when their 17-year-old daughter Becky died unexpectedly — 25 years ago today. Becky’s mysterious plea at the hospital, just before she passed away, was for her parents to “please forgive me.” Later, they found a letter that said, “I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t. I have to deal with it myself. I can do it, and I love you.” Her words made sense when Becky’s death was determined to have been caused by a bacterial infection brought about by an illegal abortion.

In Indiana, where the Bell family resided, minors needed parental permission in order to obtain an abortion. Becky Bell, for whatever reason, didn’t feel she could confide in her parents about her unwanted pregnancy, and while judicial bypasses were technically an option, the judge in her district had never granted one.

The parental-consent law couldn’t force familial communication: Becky either obtained a back-alley abortion or attempted to self-abort — and the unsterilized equipment that was most likely used caused an infection that raged for six days before taking her life. Her grief-stricken parents wrote, “We would rather have not known that our daughter had had an abortion, if it meant that she could have obtained the best of care, and come back home safely to us.” Continue reading

A Conversation With Faye Wattleton: Part 2, Belief and Mission

Ms. Wattleton speaks out against George H.W. Bush’s gag rule, which banned any mention of abortion in federally funded family-planning programs.

Faye Wattleton was president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992. She was generous enough to speak to me on January 7, 2013, and throughout the month of February we’ll be sharing her experiences and perspectives in observance of Black History Month. In this second installment, we discuss her religious beliefs and their influence on her work, which came up often in our conversation.

Religion was a strong influence during Faye Wattleton’s childhood and remains so in her adult life. She grew up in a fundamentalist family, and that religion, along with her experiences as a nurse, brought her to a belief in individual freedom that was absolute, including the conviction that every woman has the right to make her own reproductive choices.

When I asked about her work for reproductive rights, she said, “My view about that is perhaps most reflective of my religious upbringing, with respect to who shall judge. Judge not that you be not judged.”


“Our reproduction is still a proxy for the larger question of our full status as human beings and as citizens.”


That religious upbringing was shaped by the fact that her mother was an ordained minister in the Church of God, and her calling determined the course of Wattleton family life. While Faye was still little, this calling took her and her parents away from St. Louis and the safety of extended family. When she reached school age, her parents left her with families within the church, each year in a different place. During this time, she learned to rely on herself and think independently, perhaps preparing her to be a leader while keeping her within the protective bubble of the greater Church of God community.

The Church of God is Christian, Protestant, foundational, evangelical, and charismatic. Members believe in prayer, the inerrancy and literal truth of the Bible, personal salvation, and the unique, individual revelation of the Holy Spirit.* Ms. Wattleton often heard her mother preach and witnessed the emotional responses of her listeners in churches and revival meetings.

While her mother evangelized, bringing others to what she saw as the only way to God, Ms. Wattleton’s sense of mission came from the conviction that each person acts within unique life circumstances that must be respected. When I asked about this difference between her mother and herself, she replied that it “probably was due to my early training as a nurse. I went to college as a 16-year-old, graduated at 20. And so I was really deeply influenced by my professional training and exposure [to other people’s lives and problems]. It’s possible that, had I chosen a different profession, I may have seen life differently, but this is the profession that I chose.” Continue reading

20 Years Since Planned Parenthood v. Casey

The U.S. Supreme Court, presided over by William H. Rehnquist, decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey 20 years ago.

This Friday, June 29, marks the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

I first learned about the Supreme Court decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey about 10 years ago. I was sitting in a constitutional law class in a suburban university. It was my first introduction to abortion access restrictions whose names are now commonplace to me: mandatory counseling sessions, 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent, spousal notification, and reporting requirements.

Basically, the facts of the case look like this. In 1989, Pennsylvania amended its Abortion Control Act to require:

  • the person undergoing the abortion to give informed consent and receive mandatory counseling, including alternatives to abortion.
  • a 24-hour waiting period between the counseling appointment and the procedure itself.
  • parental consent for minors, with available judicial bypass.
  • a spousal notification requirement.
  • reporting requirements for providers.

Geography, relationships, and other life realities are perfectly capable of creating their own “undue burdens.”


The state’s Planned Parenthood association challenged the statute and — fast forwarding a bunch — the case eventually ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the standard for whether a state could enact a restriction to abortion access was whether that restriction placed an “undue burden” on the person seeking the abortion. A burden would be considered undue “if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

Of the restrictions enumerated in Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act, the Court considered only the spousal notification requirement an undue burden. Continue reading

Women for Goddard Say Goddard Is For Women

Editor’s note: For an in-depth interview with Terry Goddard, 2014 candidate for secretary of state, please click here.

Did you know that women are the majority of voters in the United States? In fact, there were 10 million more women voters than men in the 2008 election. Why is it, then, that women only make up 17 percent of Congress? And why is it that issues such as women’s health continue to be relegated to the back burner?

Arizona is an interesting state, because we actually have a long history of women serving in political office here, in particular in the governor’s seat. Who can forget Rose Mofford and her sassy beehives? The irony, however, is that having a woman in office does not always mean that women are being fairly represented. Jan Brewer is the perfect example. During her time in office, Jan Brewer has systematically set back women’s rights, especially when it comes to women’s access to reproductive health care services.

A group of community organizers called Women for Goddard is hoping to change the political climate. They are mobilizing 5,000 female voters in support of Terry Goddard’s bid for governor, and they are reaching out to voters who are registered, but who haven’t voted in recent elections. Women for Goddard recently held a phone bank in which 500 volunteers each committed to call 10 women. Each of those volunteers will remain in contact with their voters until the election to make sure that the women get to the polls. The goal is to tip the balance of the scales in favor of Terry Goddard. And they are doing it one phone call at a time. Continue reading