Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • orange-kool-aid-man-205As all of us know by now, the moronic stooges of the incoming administration pose a serious threat to our reproductive rights. Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, Tom Price, has twice co-sponsored federal legislation that would define fertilized human eggs as legal persons. Vice President-elect Pence co-sponsored these legislative attempts. Paul Ryan has supported such legislation as well! Is it realistic that the push to legally recognize an egg as a “person” could succeed? Could stem cell research lose federal funding? Could Price make it easy for insurance companies to stop covering birth control? Yes to all of the above. (Scientific American)
  • There has been a lot of chatter about “faithless electors” refusing to grant their states’ electoral votes to Donald Trump next week. Personally speaking, I’m keeping my expectations low and preparing for the orange version of the Kool-Aid man to be in office come January 20, 2017. (Time)
  • Did you know that the fear-mongering weasels in Texas drafted a cockamamie booklet full of idiotic, disproven lies called “A Woman’s Right To Know” that is required to be given to women seeking abortions? Of the many blatant falsehoods cited in the book, they try to scare women into thinking having an abortion increases one’s risk of breast cancer. Fun fact: it doesn’t. (Huffington Post)
  • Republican legislators in Ohio, completely IGNORING the fact that federal courts have previously deemed such laws unconstitutional, advanced a law to outlaw abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Which is before most women even show signs of being pregnant. Infamously anti-choice Gov. John Kasich vetoed this bill and instead passed a 20-week ban based on the notion that this is when a fetus can feel “pain.” (NBC News)
  • Notably, the American Medical Association concluded more than a decade ago that fetal perception of pain is “unlikely before the third trimester.” They concluded that the capacity for pain probably does not even exist before 29 or 30 weeks. (Fact Check)
  • Various Arizona artists are planning a “Nasty Women” art exhibit in downtown Phoenix January 14 to 20, and they’re donating the proceeds to Planned Parenthood Arizona! (Phoenix New Times)
  • Our Knight in Shining Brown Armor, Barack Obama, just made it super hard for individual states to defund Planned Parenthood! (NY Times)
  • Donald Trump doesn’t have time to be bothered with daily intelligence briefings, but he does have time to meet with rappers. #Priorities (Rolling Stone)
  • 30 million people will lose their insurance if Obamacare is repealed. Thirty million. (NBC News)
  • Maybe this scathing Trump op-ed in Teen Vogue will make you optimistic about the next generation. (Teen Vogue)
  • Ya know what I don’t wanna see when I walk into a public restroom at a restaurant, bar, hospital, hotel, or school? Anti-abortion graffiti propaganda written all over the damn wall. Well, Oklahoma passed an atrociously asinine law requiring anti-abortion rhetoric to be posted on bathroom walls in public restrooms. And business owners would have to pay the costs for this nonsense! The state claims it wants to achieve an “abortion-free society.” Wow. That sounds amazing. Know what will help get us there? Widespread access to affordable birth control and comprehensive sex education in all schools. Oklahoma notoriously does not support either of those initiatives, though. (NY Mag)
  • Speaking of Oklahoma, they lost a battle in the TRAP war. (Slate)
  • Roe v. Wade will be fine (according to this optimistic writer, who is banking on the longevity of the very old liberal members of SCOTUS). (Slate)
  • In my last rundown I shared the news of Texas trying to force the burial of fetal remains (only the ones resultant from abortion, not miscarriage — cause apparently those are less sacred and valued to legislators). Well that’s canceled. For now. (Texas Tribune)
  • Guess what? Abortion does not harm women’s mental health. The medical field has spoken. Definitively. (NY Times)

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: Finally, Facts Matter

Tex-Supremes BlogOn Monday, June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court decided that Texas HB2 was unconstitutional, eliminating requirements for Texas doctors to have hospital admitting privileges near their clinics and for abortion clinics to become surgical facilities. Many fine summaries of this landmark decision popped up within hours of the decision. See Planned Parenthood’s press release and “The Court once again makes the ‘undue-burden’ test a referendum on the facts” on SCOTUS Blog.


On Monday, the Supreme Court demanded that laws be supported by facts.


What struck me most about the majority opinions written by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg was the lack of assertion and conjecture so often found in the court’s previous abortion case decisions. Recall Justice Kennedy’s 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart opinion upholding Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003: “We find no reliable data” that abortion causes women emotional harm, but we find it nonetheless “self-evident” and “unexceptional to conclude” that “some women” who choose to terminate their pregnancies suffer “regret,” “severe depression,” “loss of esteem,” and other ills. “Some women”? Did we really uphold a law based upon this kind of neo-paternalistic, fuzzy thinking?

Not this time out. The Supreme Court put future litigants on notice: Facts matter, science matters, logic matters, common-sense inference matters. Unsupported assertions? Nah. Consultants parading as scientists? Not so much. In workmanlike fashion, dealing with abortion in a frank and unapologetic way, the majority read into law 15 separate District Court findings of fact gleaned from stipulations, depositions, and testimony. Further, the court chastised Texas for “attempting to label an opposing expert witness, Doctor Grossman, as irresponsible.” Breyer writes, “making a hypothesis — and then attempting to verify that hypothesis with further studies, as Dr. Grossman did — is not irresponsible. It is an essential element of the scientific method. The District Court’s decision to credit Dr. Grossman’s testimony was sound, particularly given that Texas provided no credible experts to rebut it.” Wow — The Supremes defend the scientific method. Color me happy.  Continue reading

Courting Women

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

“… [T]he difference of having three women on the Supreme Court. I think that all the justices obviously are important in that court, but it really makes a difference to begin to have a court that more reflects the diversity of this country, and I think women who can really speak from a woman’s point of view, just how impactful these kind of laws that specifically target women and women’s access to health care, how impactful they are. And I was really grateful to have the women’s voices in the room.”

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, March 2, 2016, commenting on that day’s oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Me, too, Cecile.

Courting women. Let’s snatch that phrase from the parlor in a Jane Austen novel and lob it into the Supreme Court chambers, making courting not the passive “pick me” word of yesteryear, but an assertive “empower me” word of today.

Power, judiciously applied, is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan demonstrated during oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. They formed a tag team of relentless logic, assertiveness, and deep understanding of the predicament of women in Texas needing timely, accessible abortion care — and not getting it. The court was probing two provisions of Texas HB2, the law that requires that (1) physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinics and (2) all abortions must be performed in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs, mini-hospitals). (See SCOTUSblog “Round Up” and Roe v. Wade: Texas Then and Now for additional background on this important case.)

Justices explored the elements that create an unconstitutional “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion by questioning attorney Stephanie Toti, representing Whole Woman’s Health, and Solicitor General Scott Keller, representing Texas. Here are some highlights: Continue reading

2014: A Rundown Retrospective

2014 was a pretty not-so-stellar year in reproductive rights, if we’re being honest.

But hold your chin up. All did not suck!

While we’re never sure what new, exciting, or horrible fates await us at the dawn of a new year, rest assured that we’ll be here covering the news that matters most with regard to reproductive and sexual health, politics, gender issues, and reproductive justice well into 2015 and beyond.

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Supreme_Court_protectI’ve spoken about my experiences as a clinic escort and the importance of buffer zones around abortion clinics many times on this blog. We at Planned Parenthood are staunch supporters of buffer zones and believe they’re crucial in protecting our patients from potential harm and harassment. So, imagine our collective dismay yesterday when the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision calling the 35-foot clinic buffer zone in Massachusetts “unconstitutional” on the basis that it violates the First Amendment of those who wish to “counsel” clinic patients. Pretty infuriating to say the least. (Mother Jones)
  • Will SCOTUS also throw women under the bus in the upcoming Hobby Lobby decision? (RH Reality Check)
  • Four years ago, Aaron Gouveia and his wife had to make the heartbreaking decision to abort their non-viable, very much wanted child. His story describes how the presence of anti-abortion protesters made the saddest day of their lives exponentially worse. (Time)
  • President Obama is the first Commander in Chief to help advance transgender rights! (Associated Press)
  • Women who volunteer in the Peace Corps are now able to receive insurance coverage for abortion (albeit in limited circumstances: rape, incest, or life endangerment). Better to have baby steps than no steps, I guess. (RH Reality Check)
  • Check out this fascinating piece on the history of sex-ed films shown in schools over the years. (Truth-out)
  • The headline might sound sensational, but it’s the truth — Abortion Clinics Are Closing Because Their Doors Aren’t Big Enough. (Vice)
  • The Vatican is aware their teachings on contraception aren’t followed or even highly regarded by most Catholics, but apparently, it’s easier to keep the doctrine stale and irrelevant than to evolve because they’re not likely to make any changes. (Toronto Star)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • pillVICTORY! The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Planned Parenthood (and common sense) with regard to medication abortion. If you recall, back in 2012, our Republican-led legislature passed a law trying to restrict its usage to the seventh week (or less) of pregnancy — despite the fact that it’s been safely used into the ninth week for more than a decade. The court has rightfully decided this restriction causes an undue burden for women. (AZ Central)
  • The withdrawal method is more popular than many of us thought! (Guttmacher)
  • TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) have the power to completely eradicate women’s access to abortion. And without even overturning Roe. (Slate)
  • Four of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics could be shutting down thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal signing a TRAP bill into law. (MSNBC)
  • Birth control pills are terrific for treating problematic acne. (Time)
  • You may have heard that evangelicals, Christian fundamentalists, the “religious right” — whatever you wanna call them — originally banded together to fight against abortion. Well, In actuality, it was segregation that united this self-righteous bunch of clowns. (Politico)
  • Anti-abortion zealots are trying to threaten hospitals over abortion access now. (Think Progress)
  • There’s a pretty big disconnect between women and their doctors when it comes to conversations about contraceptives. (NPR)
  • Can Melinda Gates be a genuine advocate/champion for women’s reproductive health while completely ignoring the subject of abortion? (RH Reality Check)