The Demographics of Abortion

One thing that hasn’t changed since 1973 is the public image of what a typical abortion patient looks like: A middle-class, white high-school or college student with no children whose bright future could be derailed by motherhood. Hollywood portrayals of abortion patients are few and far between, but largely reinforce this understanding; Juno, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood all focused on characters from this demographic. But these images, while they were closer to reality once, don’t say much about the typical abortion patient of today.

If you want to know why feminists keep rattling on about how the key to reducing abortions is free contraception, this will tell you.

Via A Place of Greater Safety.

Catholic Hospital: Fetuses Aren't People

In 2006 Lori Stodghill, who was pregnant with twins, died of a heart attack at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. The ER staff paged her obstetrician, Pelham Staples, but he never responded, so her unborn twins also died.

Stodghill’s husband Jeremy filed a wrongful-death suit against Staples, saying he should have either come to the hospital or instructed the staff on duty to perform an emergency C-section that would have saved the twins.

Defending attorney Jason Langley argued in a brief he filed on behalf of the hospital chain that the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

Legally, he is, of course, correct. Ethically, though, it is massively hypocritical for the Catholic Church to claim that not only abortion but contraception are unacceptable because personhood begins at conception, only to claim innocence of malpractice because the “fetuses” they allowed to die don’t count as people.

Church officials now say they’re looking into the matter. Someone do me a favor and calculate the odds that their finding is: “Yes, we let two people die when we could have saved them. Here is a big pile of money, Jeremy Stodghill.”

What Local Abortion Laws Look Like Now

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and The Atlantic Wire has re-published a chart from Bloomberg Businessweek showing the number and kind of the various anti-abortion laws introduced in different states during the last two calendar years. Interesting way of representing the data, although I think it would have worked better in linear, not circular form.

Most People Oppose Overturning Roe v. Wade

Results from The Pew Forum’s most recent survey, published on Wednesday:

As the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision approaches, the public remains opposed to completely overturning the historic ruling on abortion. More than six-in-ten (63%) say they would not like to see the court completely overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Only about three-in-ten (29%) would like to see the ruling overturned. These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.

How does that jibe with the increasing prevalance of anti-abortion legislation being enacted? I think this at least partly explains it:

White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group in which a majority (54%) favors completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.

You can see from the link above that nearly half of the anti-abortion provisions passed in 2012 came from the same six states, five of which are red states. While Republicans are almost evenly split on overturning Roe v. Wade, white evangelicals—the GOP’s go-to group—support it. The survey results indicate that this group is also more likely than any other to think that abortion is a “critical issue”.

I often wonder what would happen if the Republican party leadership started legislating based on what all of their constituents want instead of relying on a few hot-button issues they know will win the support of conservative Christians.

Anyway, the survey doesn’t take a terribly long time to read, so check it out if you’re at all interested in the topic of abortion legislation.

Via the Feminist Majority Foundation Blog.

The Personhood of Pregnant Women

The reason I continue to be anti-abortion even though I identify as a feminist is that I fear abortion could be an infringement on the rights of a person. This does not change the fact that outlawing abortion is definitely an infringement on the rights of women everywhere. I’ve always justified this by saying that I’m more frightened by the possibility of depriving a person of life than I am of the certainty of depriving a person of liberty—the liberty in this case being a woman’s liberty to make her own reproductive decisions.

Even accepting this, though—which many do not—the most I think the government should do is deprive women of their liberty to terminate a pregnancy. But a new study soon to be published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law indicates that anti-abortion laws are being used to justify all sorts of civil-liberty violations against women:

  • A woman in Utah gave birth to twins. When one was stillborn, she was arrested and charged with criminal homicide based on the claim that her decision to delay cesarean surgery was the cause of the stillbirth.
  • After a hearing that lasted less than a day, a court issued an order requiring a critically-ill pregnant woman in Washington, D.C. to undergo cesarean surgery over her objections. Neither she nor her baby survived.
  • A judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her from having an abortion.
  • A woman in Oregon who did not comply with a doctor’s recommendation to have additional testing for gestational diabetes was subjected to involuntary civil commitment. During her detention, the additional testing was never performed.

Ireland to Allow Abortions in Life-Threatening Cases

In a statement released by the Irish health department, the government affirmed that it will draft legislation that “should provide the clarity and certainty in relation to the process of deciding when a termination of pregnancy is permissible, that is where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the woman and this risk can only be averted by the termination of her pregnancy.”

When making this kind of choice, saving the life of the definite person seems like a safer bet than saving the life of the theoretical person.

The "God Gulf"

Christianity Today published a great interview with Nicholas Kristof, writer of Half the Sky. Marian V. Liautaud, who conducted the interview, focused—a little unnecessarily in my opinion—on sex-selective abortion, but she also asked Kristof about the disconnect between Christian and non-Christian women’s right’s activists. Here’s part of his response:

On a lot of humanitarian issues, people on the secular and evangelical sides have strongly held beliefs that create deep, political polarization. Each side propels itself toward areas that are hardest to find agreement on because they’re the areas that are defined as most important. Instead, we should be focusing on areas where there is common ground.

It’s a short interview, so take the time to absorb Kristof’s thoughts on the shifting landscape of gender equality in the Far East.

Pediatricians: Prescribe Emergency Contraception to Teens in Advance

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that pediatricians begin prescribing Plan B ahead of time (where by “time” I mean “intercourse”) to women under 17, due to the difficulties teen girls often face in obtaining the drug:

A 2010 analysis of seven randomized studies of emergency contraception found that having a morning-after prescription in hand did not increase teens’ sexual activity or decrease use of standard contraceptives but did increase use of the pill and shorten the time before a teenager used it after sex.

I know I say this nearly every time I mention Plan B, but it does not cause abortions or prevent implantation.

Surprise! The Abortion Rate Just Hit an All-Time Low

Why is this a surprise? Even the graph shown indicates an overall trend of decreasing abortion incidence.

Who wants to guess why?

Okay, fine! It’s probably increased use of contraceptives. As if you didn’t know.

Michigan Lawmakers Propose Tax Credit for Theoretical Children, Eliminate Tax Relief For Actual Children

No exaggeration:

Pro-choicers have been accusing conservatives for decades of valuing fetuses more than actual born children (and exponentially more than post-pubescent women), and now state legislators in Michigan are considering proving them right. The legislature held a hearing on Tuesday for House Bill 5684 and 5685, which would “allow taxpayers to claim a dependency exemption for a fetus that has completed at least 12 weeks of gestation as of the last day of the tax year and that has been under the care and observation of a physician since at least 12 weeks of gestation.”

Just last year, on the other hand, the legislature eliminated a tax credit for parents.

What could possibly motivate this other than wanting to make a philosophical statement? And as Sam Goldwyn said, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.”

By the way, the House Fiscal Agency (which is nonpartisan) estimates that this new tax credit could cost the state $5–10 million, so fiscal soundness clearly played no part in the decision.