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Context of 'April 17, 2007: Supreme Court Upholds ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’ Ban'

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Headline from the New York Times regarding the ‘Roe’ decision.Headline from the New York Times regarding the ‘Roe’ decision. [Source: RubeReality (.com)]The US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, legalizes abortion on a federal level in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. The majority opinion is written by Justice Harry Blackmun; he is joined by Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justices William O. Douglas, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall, and Lewis Powell. Justices Byron “Whizzer” White and William Rehnquist dissent from the opinion. Blackmun’s majority opinion finds that the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of personal liberty and previous decisions protecting privacy in family matters include a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. White’s dissent argues that the Court has “fashion[ed] and announce[d] a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invest[ed] that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes.” The decision does not make abortion freely available to women in any stage of pregnancy. It places the following constraints:
bullet No restrictions on availability are made during the first trimester (three months) of a woman’s pregnancy.
bullet Because of increased risks to a woman’s health during the second trimester, the state may regulate the abortion procedure only “in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.”
bullet In the third and final trimester, since the rate of viability (live birth) is markedly greater than in the first two trimesters, the state can restrict or even prohibit abortions as it chooses, “except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
Originally brought to challenge a Texas law prohibiting abortions, the decision disallows a host of state and federal restrictions on abortion, and sparks an enormous controversy over the moral, religious, and legal viability of abortion that continues well into the 21st century. [ROE v. WADE, 410 US 113 (1973), 1/22/1973; CNN, 1/22/2003; National Abortion Federation, 2010] In a related case, Roe v. Bolton, the Court strikes down restrictions on facilities that can be used to provide abortions. The ruling leads to the establishment of so-called “abortion clinics.” [CBS News, 4/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Potter Stewart, Byron White, Lewis Powell, Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist, US Supreme Court, William O. Douglas, Warren Burger, William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Civil Liberties

President Clinton vetoes a bill outlawing so-called “partial-birth abortions” (see December 1995), saying the legislation should include a provision to allow the abortion procedure if needed to protect a woman’s health as well as her life. Congress fails to override the veto. [CBS News, 4/19/2007]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

President Bush signs a bill into law banning so-called “partial-birth abortions.” A similar bill was vetoed by then-President Clinton in 1996 (see April 1996). The bill signing is part of a ceremony of abortion opposition featuring some 400 lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates. The new law, known as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, is the first time the federal goverment has banned an abortion procedure since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortions (see January 22, 1973). A federal judge in Nebraska has already said the law may be unconstitutional, and many observers expect it to be challenged. [CBS News, 4/19/2007] Three years later, the Supreme Court will uphold the law (see April 17, 2007).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

Three separate federal courts rule that the federal ban on so-called “partial-birth abortions” (see November 5, 2003) is unconstitutional. One judge rules that the law illegally infringes on a woman’s right to choose. A second and third rule that the law must contain a provision excepting such a procedure in the case of a danger to the mother’s life or health. The case will be appealed to the Supreme Court (see April 17, 2007). [CBS News, 4/19/2007]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

An Indiana mother and her 17-year-old daughter visit what they think is a Planned Parenthood (PP) clinic to receive counseling about the daughter’s pregnancy. The facility is actually a “crisis pregnancy clinic,” or CPC, operated by anti-abortion activists. The CPC is near the Planned Parenthood clinic, and shares a parking lot with it. According to a PP email alert, the CPC is one of a number of false clinics “designed expressly to lure Planned Parenthood patients and deceive them.” In this case, the CPC staff, pretending to be PP clinic officials, record the girl’s confidential information and make a false “appointment” for her that is to take place in the “other office”—the actual PP clinic. When the girl returns for her appointment, the PP clinicians have no record of her. Moreover, she is met by police, who have been told by the CPC staff that the girl is a minor being forced to have an abortion against her will. In the days and weeks following the encounter, the girl and her family are harassed and stalked by anti-abortion activists. The activists come to her home and call her father’s workplace to “counsel” the family against having an abortion. The PP clinic director later says the girl was “scared to death to leave her house.” The activists even go to the girl’s school and urge her classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion. PP warns that anti-abortion organizations around the country are setting up CPCs (see May 1, 2006), many of which pass themselves off as non-partisan women’s health clinics offering a full range of reproductive services, but in actuality are fronts for those organizations, providing no health services but instead disseminating pamphlets and other information. PP accuses these CPCs of trafficking in “propaganda and intimidation,” and writes: “[A]ccording to The New York Times, there are currently more of these centers in the US than there are actual abortion providers! What’s more, these centers have received $60 million of government grants. They’re being funded by our tax dollars.” The PP blog entry featuring the email alert is later removed from the organization’s site, but is preserved on another Web site. [Planned Parenthood, 4/21/2006] The story is later verified by Planned Parenthood official Jennifer Jorczak. [AlterNet, 5/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Jennifer Jorczak, Planned Parenthood

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

In a 5-4 decision splitting the court between conservatives and moderate/liberal justices, the Supreme Court upholds the 2003 ban on so-called “partial-birth abortions.” The Court rules that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. [CBS News, 4/19/2007]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

During the year, a number of states enact over 77 laws and other measures that affect reproductive rights, a sharp upturn from the 33 enacted in 2008. Some of these laws protect and enhance reproductive rights (see 2009), others restrict them. Some of the restrictive laws are as follows:
bullet Arizona adopts what the Guttmacher Institute calls “a massive omnibus measure that essentially revamps abortion policy in the state,” requiring in-person counseling, long waiting periods before a woman can legally seek an abortion, and new restrictions on minors seeking abortions; the measure restricts the performance of abortion procedures to physicians only and grants providers new rights to refuse to participate in abortion-related services. The new measure is shepherded through the state legislature by Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ), a strong opponent of abortion rights. Many of the new measures are not in effect due to legal challenges. Eighteen other states attempt to enact measures relating to parental involvement in attempts by minors to seek abortions, but fail.
bullet Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, and Ohio adopt laws requiring abortion providers to post signs informing women that they cannot be coerced into having abortions, and encouraging their clients to contact authorities or clinic staff if they feel they have been subjected to such pressure.
bullet Arizona and Arkansas adopt measures restricting so-called “partial-birth abortions” similar to a federal ban upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 (see April 17, 2007). In all, 17 states have such restrictions. Utah tightens the availability of such late-term abortions in its laws. A measure that would have entirely banned “partial-birth abortions” and restricted other such procedures was vetoed in Kansas.
bullet Iowa, Maryland, and Minnesota continue existing prohibitions on public funding for abortion.
bullet Kansas and Nebraska enact laws requiring that women seeking abortions after 19 weeks’ gestation be given information on the availability of ultrasound procedures. In all, 16 states now have similar requirements on the books.
bullet Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, and Washington enact substantial cuts in family planning programs.
bullet North Dakota enacts a law requiring women seeking abortions to be told that the procedure will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, and unique human being.” Similar provisions were enacted by the Kansas legislature, but vetoed by Governor Mark Parkinson (D-KS).
bullet Oklahoma enacts laws banning abortions for purposes of “sex selection,” and institutes what the Guttmacher Institute calls “intrusive abortion reporting requirements” that will result in making private information about women seeking abortions public (see November 1, 2009).
bullet Utah requires women seeking abortions to be provided with information on the purported ability of a fetus to feel pain, information many medical providers consider false. The state also institutes an “Abortion Litigation Trust Account” to cover the cost of defending the state against legal challenges filed against its anti-abortion laws.
bullet Tennessee joins six other states in restricting access to contraceptive services.
bullet Virginia authorizes the sale of license plates with the “Choose Life” slogan, and earmarks profits from the sale of those plates to fund “crisis pregnancy centers” (see April 2006) across the state. Twenty-one states now offer such license plates. [Guttmacher Institute, 1/2010]

Entity Tags: Mark Parkinson, Guttmacher Institute, Jan Brewer

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

An Oklahoma law requiring that information about abortions be made public goes into effect. The law requires the collection of personal details about the women who have abortions, and mandates that the information be posted on a public Web site. The information includes:
bullet Date of abortion;
bullet County in which abortion performed;
bullet Age of mother;
bullet Marital status of mother (married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married);
bullet Race of mother;
bullet Years of education of mother (specify highest year completed);
bullet State or foreign country of residence of mother;
bullet Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother, including live births, miscarriages, and induced abortions.
The law does not collect names, addresses, or “any information specifically identifying the patient.” However, pro-choice group Feminists for Choice notes that the information that is collected can easily be used to identify a woman, especially in a smaller community. “They’re really just trying to frighten women out of having abortions,” says Keri Parks of Planned Parenthood. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the law. [Think Progress, 10/8/2009] Salon columnist Lynn Harris writes: “According to proponents of the law, this extensive abortion data—which will include the reason the procedure was sought—will help health officials prevent future abortions. Yeah, I can see that. Because the requirement itself would scare the sh_t out of me.” Harris continues: “It isn’t unique for a state to post health data on its Web site. However, Oklahoma’s requirements are by far the most extensive as such. The law’s supporters claim they want this information to be made public so it can be used for ‘academic research,’ but according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, its collection method makes it useless for that purpose.” [Salon, 10/7/2009]

Entity Tags: Feminists for Choice, Center for Reproductive Rights, Lynn Harris, Keri Parks

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

Frances Kissling.Frances Kissling. [Source: University of Pennsylvania]Frances Kissling, the former head of pro-choice organization Catholics for a Free Choice, writes that the pro-choice movement made a grievous mistake in not successfully opposing the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” which since 1976 has denied federal funding for abortions in most instances (see September 30, 1976). Kissling is spurred to write in part by President Obama’s recent characterization of the Hyde Amendment as an “American tradition.” She writes: “It seems that pro-choice legislators, following the president’s lead, now explicitly consider that throwing women who cannot afford to pay for their own abortions under the bus is a reasonable compromise between those who favor and those who oppose legal abortion and a sensible concession to those who think abortion is immoral. The compromise is the logical outcome of one of Roe’s essential weaknesses: the fact that the constitutional right to abortion was based on the principle of privacy rather than non-discrimination. A private right, even a fundamental one, did not, according to the Supreme Court, require the state to pay for its implementation.” Kissling notes that in the years when Hyde was under consideration, the nascent pro-choice movement, in a decision “[b]ased substantially on the advice of direct-mail and political consultants,” decided to let Hyde go through without serious opposition, and focused instead on the “less real” threat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. Kissling writes: “The advice was clear and classist. It accepted the racism that lay buried in middle class hostility to poor women, ‘welfare queens,’ and the ‘sexually promiscuous’—all those who might be expected to look to Medicaid to pay for abortions—whom the rest of us should not support.” In hindsight, Kissling writes: “[n]ot concentrating on overturning Hyde was arguably the worst decision the mainstream choice movement made.… [T]he largely unchallenged Hyde Amendment emboldened anti-abortion groups to pick off powerless constituencies one at a time.” Instead of working to restore federal funding for abortions for women unable to pay for their own procedures, the pro-choice movement has, Kissling writes, taken on far more unpopular issues such as so-called “partial-birth” abortions (see April 1996 and November 5, 2003), but has never mounted a clear and unified challenge to Hyde. Kissling calls on the pro-choice movement to mount just such a challenge, and to continue to do so until Hyde is overturned. [Women's Media Center, 1/3/2010]

Entity Tags: Frances Kissling, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

Legatus logo.Legatus logo. [Source: ProLife Dallas (.org)]Former President George W. Bush is honored by Legatus, a Florida-based Catholic group for business and civic leaders, for his opposition to reproductive rights during his presidency. Bush receives the “Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award,” named for the famously anti-abortion Catholic leader. The organization notes Bush’s opposition to stem-cell research, his executive order banning the use of federal funds for abortions (see November 5, 2003), his appointment of anti-abortion advocates to the Supreme Court (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006 and September 29, 2005), and his designation of January 18, 2009 as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.” The award is given at a private meeting in Dana Point, California. The event is only open to members of Legatus and their guests, and the registration fee is $1,475 per person. A Legatus official tells a reporter: “His appearance is going to be a private appearance on behalf of our organization. He will be delivering remarks for us and all of that will be a private presentation.” Event chairperson Kathleen Eaton says: “I’ve been speaking to a number of Legatus chapters about the summit, and people are really excited. It’s been a rough year on a number of fronts and they really need this shot in the arm. They want to come together to pray and learn more about what the church is saying on different issues.” Local pro-choice and peace groups mount a protest; one organizer, Sharon Tipton, tells a reporter: “Over one million Iraqi people have been killed, mostly women and children. Bush is responsible for over 5 million new orphans, and we just found out that Bush is receiving a pro-life award? This is outrageous!” [Catholic News Agency, 1/8/2010; Orange County Weekly, 2/3/2010]

Entity Tags: Sharon Tipton, Legatus, George W. Bush, Kathleen Eaton

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

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