Last week, the citizens of South Dakota, California, and Oregon sent a clear message to their elected representatives: stop restricting safe abortion at the state level. All of the victories were terrific news for supporters of women's reproductive freedom, since in the 33 years since Roe v. Wade guaranteed American women's right to a safe and legal abortion, hundreds of state-level restrictions that disproportionately target poor women, young women, women of color, and women living in rural areas, have slowly been eroding that right. The ballot victories were also significant because they came from the people themselves – so whining about "judicial activism" is strictly off-limits this time.
Of course, just when I was getting all psyched about how state legislators might just sit up and listen to their constituents, Republicans in the Missouri legislature had to go and write the most messed-up report ever. The report, authored by a Special Committee on Immigration Reform, concluded that high rates of illegal immigration in Missouri can best be attributed to…why, abortion, of course! Actually, I'm being unfair. Illegal immigration is not just abortion's fault. Here's what the report says:
The lack of traditional work ethic, combined with the effects of 30 years of abortion and expanding liberal social welfare policies have produced a shortage of workers and a lack of incentive for those who can work.
Cathy Mahoney is the Legal Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Last Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging the Federal Abortion Ban, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003. More than anything else, the decision to schedule this argument, the day after a now monumental election day, serves as a chilling reminder of what's at stake for women's health and Americans' right to privacy now that the Court has been reconfigured by President Bush and his anti-choice colleagues in the Senate.
What the arguments made clear are two points that[img_assist|nid=1353|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=89|height=100] everyone who has a wife, girlfriend, mother, or sister ought to care about: This ban reaches abortions as early as the 12th week in pregnancy: So early, in fact, that even the Bush administration concedes that the Court would need to rewrite the statute to find it constitutional. Further, and equally as notable: It contains no exception to protect a woman's health.
For over 30 years, in decision after decision since Roe v. Wade, the courts have made it clear that restrictions on abortion must contain protections for women's health, yet Congress deliberately chose not to include one when it enacted this law.
Governments have been legislating (controlling) peoples' sex lives for hundreds of years. Take for example sodomy laws, which broadly referred to any form of non-procreative sex, but more recently, have only referred to anal sex between two men. In the U.S., sodomy laws date all the way back to the 1600's. It wasn't until 2003 that the Supreme Court invalidated all state same-sex (as well as some heterosexual) sodomy laws, finally making it legal for two consenting adult males to engage in sex in privacy (see Lawrence et. al. v. Texas). This was a huge victory for same-sex couples in the U.S and a welcome precedent for the protection of private sexual behavior for all people. Lately though, I have begun to fear for that protection and have become fully aware that my sexual rights are at risk.
The problem today isn't so much the existing laws restricting sexual behavior, like the one in Maryland that makes it illegal to have oral sex or the one in Massachusetts that makes adultery illegal, because they are mostly unenforceable. Rather, I am afraid of the ones that more subtly attempt to tell people who they can and can't have sex with/be intimate with/love, for example same-sex marriage bans.
As a progressive political wave washed across the country yesterday, reproductive justice advocates experienced three major victories. Voters in South Dakota, California, and Oregon rejected ballot measures that would have restricted abortion in their states.
The most publicized ballot measure – the one that would have banned abortion (except to save a woman's life) in South Dakota – was defeated. Sara Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, announced this victory:
Yesterday, tens of thousands of people across the state of South Dakota came together to overturn the most far-reaching abortion ban in many decades. Our coalition of men and women, faith leaders, business professionals and healthcare professionals sent a strong message to their legislators — don't use our state to push an extremist agenda.
Even as election results continue to come in from parts of the country, it’s clear that we are poised for some progress on some key sexual and reproductive health issues with the new 110th Congress. In addition, citizens in South Dakota, California and Oregon took policy making into their own hands – rejecting an effort to criminalize abortions and limit access to these services for young women. And Kansas rejected its attorney general Phil Kline, a notorious advocate for ending access to abortion.
To the stars through difficulties is the Kansas state motto. One star has been steadily rising in Kansas, leading her party and state through difficulties often brought on by social conservative ideologues and an agenda that distracts many politicians from doing what they were elected to do, govern. Governor Kathleen Sebelius, winning her second term in a cake-walk, is a bona fide national leader with accomplishments forged of collaboration and pragmatism. She did that without dodging or compromising her beliefs on difficult social issues in red state Kansas. As an unapologetic pro-choice Catholic, she places social issues in the larger context of issues that genuinely matter to the vast majority of people, like education, the economy and health care. But she does not ignore them.
Sebelius does not define herself by focusing on social issues. She starts from a place of inclusion and collaboration, understanding that America is a pluralistic democracy that must have space within the law for people to make private decisions based on individual beliefs and values. She makes government work not by forcing her beliefs on others, but by respectfully disagreeing where she must, and reminding people she was elected to serve all Kansans.
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline finally obtained private medical records from Kansas abortion clinics last week, though months ago the Kansas Supreme Court made efforts to protect people's medical privacy by limiting the scope of information. Someone else had been seeking them too, Fox News' own Bill O'Reilly, who said on his program Friday that he had been seeking these records for months and months, and finally got them, from an "inside source."
According to John Hanna of the Associated Press in Topeka, Kansas, a spokesperson for the Attorney General said they assumed the "inside source" for the O'Reilly Factor must have been inside the clinic. But if the O'Reilly Factor's source was "inside the abortion clinic" why would the news of those records not have been televised before this?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that Kline's efforts to obtain private medical records, allegedly to pursue criminal cases against rapists, has resulted in those records being obtained by a cable network news anchor to air just days before an election. Coincidence? According to the AP, the records do not contain names of patients, so they could not be used for any criminal investigation. The clinics have asked for further investigation into Kline and O'Reilly's use of these private medical records.
Frances Kissling is President of Catholics for a Free Choice.
Priests for Life claims to be "the nation's largest Catholic pro-life organization." However, in 2000, the group claimed a mere 13% of the nation's priests as members. Today, it reports no membership income on its tax returns and has lost even more ground among priests.
After more than 15 years trying vainly to grow his Catholic antichoice group into the mass clerical movement envisioned in its rhetoric, its leader, Frank Pavone, now finds himself banished to a Texan wasteland and able to count on a mere 2.5 percent of the nation's priests (some 1,000) as supporters.
His hagiographic campaigning style, with unapologetic electoral campaigning, and unabashed cooperation with some of the most militant antichoice figures, has led him from New York to Amarillo, Texas, where he broke ground on a seminary for his new order of priests, Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. On the same day, the Religion News Service reported the new order had only one member, Pavone himself.
We do not endorse candidates, parties, ideologies, or faiths. We endorse the truth. We endorse responsibility. We endorse reality.
On Wednesday, nine justices of the United States Supreme Court will choose between the health of the mother and if it should be considered when writing legislation, or if her unborn child's rights supercede hers. The case was decided six years ago, but now the make-up of the court has changed.
We will see if Justices Roberts and Alito will truly evaluate these cases on their merits. We will see if they are true to their sworn testimony about stare decisis. These are sham cases. Women having late-term procedures did not simply "change their mind" about their pregnancy: their lives or their fetus were in danger and they needed medical help.
The Supreme Court's choice follows the choice millions of Americans will exercise next Tuesday. If a choice is partisan, based more in ideology than fact, made from fear, or against anyone or any party, then expect the consequences of that choice. Instead, if a choice is made from a place of hope, faith in something better, not faith in being better than someone else, but faith in each other to work together solving tough problems, then one could expect more positive results.
Dr. Connie Mitchell is a nationally recognized expert on the health care of victims of violence and abuse. She serves on the AMA National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse and is a member of the Board of Directors of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
I grew up as one of four daughters in a middle-class family. As sisters, we shared everything: bedroom, clothes, cars and double dates. It was a loving and lively home and one, I thought, of few secrets. But recently, after one of my sisters was killed in a tragic accident, another sister told me of the secret the two of them had kept for many years. At age 16, my deceased sister was pregnant and wanted to terminate the pregnancy. She sought the counsel and support of the sister now disclosing the story and got the reproductive health care she needed.
Later, I asked my mother about her reaction to the story, as I too was raising teenagers and would appreciate her perspective. My mother began to cry, but she quickly let me know that these were not tears about the abortion. Her tears flowed because the story made her feel so inadequate. She said, "I wish that I could ask her what I might have said or done differently so that she would know, really know, that I understood life provides challenges, that I loved her no matter what, and that I respected her as a young woman."