Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘abortion

Kansas Lawmakers Think It’s Fine For Doctors To Lie To Patients To Prevent Abortions

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By far the scariest of the anti-abortion bills pending before scores of state legislatures in the U.S. right now is a bill budding in Kansas that would let doctors withhold critical medical info from patients with no consequences. Among the bill’s many provisions is one exempting doctors from malpractice suits if they withhold information—such as potential birth defects or anything else that poses a health risk for the mother or child—in order to prevent an abortion. A suit can only be brought if the mother dies.

The bill assumes a doctor’s right not to potentially contribute to someone getting an abortion trumps both his duty to do his job and and a patient’s right to receive full and accurate information from their doctor. It’s also filled with some of the greatest hits of other states’ anti-abortion efforts: A requirement that a pregnant woman listen to a fetal heartbeat before abortion; doing away with tax credits for abortion providers; and stopping tax deductions for health savings accounts that include abortion coverage. It would also require doctors to tell pregnant women that abortion will increase their risk of breast cancer—a theory that’s generally disputed by doctors, scientists and health groups, including the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute. And:

With language stating that anesthesia is administered to fetuses during surgery and indicating that an unborn child feels pain, the Kansas bills calls for making 20 weeks the latest time for having an abortion, a decline from the 21-week point adopted last year. (Rep. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican) said she has professional objections to this requirement, saying that medical reports show that a fetus does not feel pain until 25 to 30 weeks and that the anesthesia is administered to prevent a rapid fetal heartbeat, which she said arises as a reflex to external stimulation.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said last week that he’s likely to sign the bill if it comes before him:

Brownback, speaking to The Huffington Post Monday following the National Governors Association meeting, said that while he has not read the 69-page bill, he is likely to sign the proposal since he opposes abortion rights. Brownback, a former U.S. senator, has signed several anti-abortion bills since he took office last year.

“I am pro-life,” Brownback said. “When I campaigned I said that if a pro-life bill got to my desk, I will sign it. I am not backing away from that.”

The bill, however, has yet to pass out of committee—it’s got a ways to go before getting to Brownback’s desk. Both Kansas’ Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by Republicans, but the more conservative House is expected to approve it, while a more moderate Senate could vote it down. But what a crazy point we’ve come to in all this conscience business when it seems reasonable to anyone that doctors should be allowed to coerce women into giving birth by withholding medical information and only be held accountable for any health problems this leads to if the patient ends up dying.

Image: Statemaster.com.

Written by Elizabeth

March 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Men & Abortion

with 3 comments

Conor wrote last week about the role of men in abortion decisions.

A culture that tells men they shouldn’t have any part in decisions about abortion, as portrayed at the “abortion party,” inevitably discourages them from responding to a pregnant girlfriend by asking, “What should we do?” And the notion that at most men should signal mutual investment in the process, and graciously support whatever the woman decides, may sound wonderful to a lot of people, but is it really realistic? A societal norm that elevates the woman’s choice above all else can certainly safeguard widespread access to abortions. But I suspect that the same norm inevitably leads some men to ask — wrongly in my view, but understandably — if you think that abortion is ethically unproblematic, and whether to have one or not is your choice, why should I have to pay child support for 18 years if you decide against having one?”

Feministing reported this week on a proposed Ohio bill that would require a woman to get a man’s signature before obtaining an abortion:

Rep. John Adams, a Republican from Sidney, wants to change that and the legislation he introduced today, House Bill 252, would require the biological father’s consent before an abortion can be done. The bill would apply to any abortion and would require written consent before it can be done.

Let’s disregard the ridiculousness (it will never be passed with a Democratic governor, and doesn’t Ohio have more important things to be worrying about right now? (Yes)) and offensiveness of this bill even being introduced. But to juxtapose responses to the questions raised by the outrageous Ohio bill and by Conor’s more thoughtful question, it’s always just struck me as so obvious that:

a) we shouldn’t require a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, because it’s ultimately her body being required to support a fetus’ development, and therefore any laws requiring a biological father’s permission would be utterly absurd, but

b) there should be a way for a man to opt out of raising a child he’s conceived! Even if you’re anti-abortion, you can conceive a child and give it up for adoption. It does seem unfair to me to say to men, ‘you got a woman pregnant, she wants to have/raise the child and you don’t, now please support it for 21 years.’ I do think child support laws are unfair in this situation, and there should be a time period where it’s legal for a man to say, no, I do not want any responsibility for this child, legally, financially, etc., and I hereby sign away all legal rights to see/talk to/have any claim to this child or the child’s mother, and if the mother still wants to carry the child to term/not give it up for adoption knowing that, she will have no legal recourse for collecting support for the child. If a father signs away all rights/responsibility to/with the child, and at some point later changes his mind, then he’s out of luck unless both he and the mother legally agree that this arrangement can be changed.

Written by Elizabeth

July 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm

The Emphemera Around It

with 6 comments

So what gets to me about the “outrage” surrounding Indiana Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it will offer gift cards for its services is how manufactured it all is.

I don’t believe it one bit. Unless all the folks wringing their keyboards about it are way stupider than I think they are, they’ve got to realize that Planned Parenthood offering gift certificates is going to do absolutely nothing to increase the rate of abortion (which they ostensibly care about lowering). As I mentioned in my post on Ladyblog Tuesday, only about 3-5 percent of PP services are abortion-related anyway; the majority are actually aimed at preventing abortion (by preventing unwanted pregnancies), with the rest devoted to basic women’s health services (mammograms, pap smears, etc.). If anyone is actually going to purchase and give out Planned Parenthood gift cards, it will probably be, say, women’s shelters and charitable organizations that want to help low-income women obtain contraception, STD testing, or basic gynecological care.

To which I was told: silly girl! All this feel-good talk about contraception and reproductive health care is just a front for Planned Parenthood’s black-baby-killing, statutory-rape-promoting, ABORTION ALL THE TIME agenda. Did you miss the dead fetuses on the PP gift card packaging? These are licenses to kill, lady! [in so many words, or course]

Now I get that people have an irrational hatred of Planned Parenthood (not saying I get why, per se, just that I get that it’s there). But anyone who thinks about if for 14 seconds would have to see how unlikely it is that anyone is going to be using these cards to procure abortions. First—if someone were going to pay for someone else to obtain an abortion, why would they bother with the gift card? Why not just cut the patient, or Planned Parenthood, a check?

But furthermore—who cares how they pay? If Person A is paying for Person B’s abortion regardless, is it somehow worse if Person A gives Person B a gift card instead of forking over cash? The net increase in abortions is still zero. Or are they worried about a rash of perfectly happily-pregnant women receiving Planned Parenthood gift cards (perhaps from nefarious PP staffers themselves) and deciding, oh, what the hell, I was going to carry this pregnancy to term, but I’ve got this gift card now and I already had my yearly gyno visit so I might as well get an abortion? I mean, seriously, what is the real fear here?

Like I said, I suspect there is none. I suspect that the people penning op-eds for the Los Angeles Times and Washington Times and writing most of these blog posts and so on have to realize all of the above blatantly obvious things. They have to realize the option of PP gift cards will do nothing to increase abortions in the state, and could actually do a bit to prevent them. But they also know that it’s a really easy news item to hook some sensationalism and hysteria on.

Does it matter? Freddie said something in the comments that I found interesting [emphasis mine]:

… most of you … keep posting stuff about abortion, acting as if people have abortion thrown in their face again and again, somehow, they’ll say “Oh! Let’s get rid of abortion.” It seems like every post is “can you believe this about abortion?” But it’s all just circular reasoning. You begin from the position that abortion is immoral, and seem to think that talking about the various ephemera around it will convince people that it’s wrong. But most people don’t begin from that assumption, and while most Americans favor some restrictions on abortion, a large majority believes in a right to obtain an abortion within the first two trimesters.

This case is kind of the epitome of The Ephemera Around It. This is really a non-issue (and I sometimes feel silly for even giving however many words I’ve just given to things like this). I guess I’m less confident than Freddie about the effects of these sorts of manufactured controversies. This story is getting play in major newspapers and news sites. Some, like the LA Times one, pretty much scream Gift Cards for Abortions!, and only explain that that’s not exactly the case a few paragraphs in. The casual reader might get to the first paragraph—Planned Parenthood of Indiana offers gift cards for abortions—and stop reading, thinking they’ve gotten the gist. The casual reader might have form a casually negative opinion of the organization. The casual reader might be that much more likely to believe it next time they hear Planned Parenthood is a white supremacist organization, or feel that much less sympathetic when a clinic gets bombed, and so on and so forth … The net increase or decrease in abortions remains unchanged, but what about the net increase in (unfounded) public ill-will?

Written by Elizabeth

December 4, 2008 at 2:04 pm

The Ephemera Around It

with 6 comments

So what gets to me about the “outrage” surrounding Indiana Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it will offer gift cards for its services is how manufactured it all is.

I don’t believe it one bit. Unless all the folks wringing their keyboards about it are way stupider than I think they are, they’ve got to realize that Planned Parenthood offering gift certificates is going to do absolutely nothing to increase the rate of abortion (which they ostensibly care about lowering). As I mentioned in my post on Ladyblog Tuesday, only about 3-5 percent of PP services are abortion-related anyway; the majority are actually aimed at preventing abortion (by preventing unwanted pregnancies), with the rest devoted to basic women’s health services (mammograms, pap smears, etc.). If anyone is actually going to purchase and give out Planned Parenthood gift cards, it will probably be, say, women’s shelters and charitable organizations that want to help low-income women obtain contraception, STD testing, or basic gynecological care.

To which I was told: silly girl! All this feel-good talk about contraception and reproductive health care is just a front for Planned Parenthood’s black-baby-killing, statutory-rape-promoting, ABORTION ALL THE TIME agenda. Did you miss the dead fetuses on the PP gift card packaging? These are licenses to kill, lady! [in so many words, or course]

Now I get that people have an irrational hatred of Planned Parenthood (not saying I get why, per se, just that I get that it’s there). But anyone who thinks about if for 14 seconds would have to see how unlikely it is that anyone is going to be using these cards to procure abortions. First—if someone were going to pay for someone else to obtain an abortion, why would they bother with the gift card? Why not just cut the patient, or Planned Parenthood, a check?

But furthermore—who cares how they pay? If Person A is paying for Person B’s abortion regardless, is it somehow worse if Person A gives Person B a gift card instead of forking over cash? The net increase in abortions is still zero. Or are they worried about a rash of perfectly happily-pregnant women receiving Planned Parenthood gift cards (perhaps from nefarious PP staffers themselves) and deciding, oh, what the hell, I was going to carry this pregnancy to term, but I’ve got this gift card now and I already had my yearly gyno visit so I might as well get an abortion? I mean, seriously, what is the real fear here?

Like I said, I suspect there is none. I suspect that the people penning op-eds for the Los Angeles Times and Washington Times and writing most of these blog posts and so on have to realize all of the above blatantly obvious things. They have to realize the option of PP gift cards will do nothing to increase abortions in the state, and could actually do a bit to prevent them. But they also know that it’s a really easy news item to hook some sensationalism and hysteria on.

Does it matter? Freddie said something in the comments that I found interesting [emphasis mine]:

… most of you … keep posting stuff about abortion, acting as if people have abortion thrown in their face again and again, somehow, they’ll say “Oh! Let’s get rid of abortion.” It seems like every post is “can you believe this about abortion?” But it’s all just circular reasoning. You begin from the position that abortion is immoral, and seem to think that talking about the various ephemera around it will convince people that it’s wrong. But most people don’t begin from that assumption, and while most Americans favor some restrictions on abortion, a large majority believes in a right to obtain an abortion within the first two trimesters.

This case is kind of the epitome of The Ephemera Around It. This is really a non-issue (and I sometimes feel silly for even giving however many words I’ve just given to things like this). I guess I’m less confident than Freddie about the effects of these sorts of manufactured controversies. This story is getting play in major newspapers and news sites. Some, like the LA Times one, pretty much scream Gift Cards for Abortions!, and only explain that that’s not exactly the case a few paragraphs in. The casual reader might get to the first paragraph—Planned Parenthood of Indiana offers gift cards for abortions—and stop reading, thinking they’ve gotten the gist. The casual reader might have form a casually negative opinion of the organization. The casual reader might be that much more likely to believe it next time they hear Planned Parenthood is a white supremacist organization, or feel that much less sympathetic when a clinic gets bombed, and so on and so forth … The net increase or decrease in abortions remains unchanged, but what about the net increase in (unfounded) public ill-will?

Written by Elizabeth

December 4, 2008 at 2:04 pm

We’re Going to Hell in a Handbasket!

with 3 comments

… Or at least that’s how social conservatives must feel today. South Dakota’s abortion ban failed, Colorado’s Embryo-American amendment failed, Michigan’s stem-cell research measure passed and Washington state’s assisted suicide measure passed. Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana and Michigan legalized it for medical purposes. Arkansas and Maryland both approved lotto measures.

It’s not just an Obama win, or a Democratic Congress win, but a major culture war win for progressives, too.

And, yes, Florida and Arizona banned gay marriage. California’s ban appears to be winning. And Arkansas’ ban on unmarried couples (read: gays) adopting or being foster parents passed (as Radley Balko lamented via twitter, “9,000 kids in foster care in Arkansas. Last night, 57 percent said they’re better off there than adopted by a gay couple”).


These last few things are disappointing. But they don’t fill me with the kind of despair all the gay marriage bans passing in 2004 did. Easy for me to say, I know; I’m not a gay person desperately wanting to get married, or adopt a child. It might seem cruel of me to even suggest, oh, it’s not so bad you have to wait. But I am absolutely convinced it is just a matter of waiting at this point. Can anyone really doubt that the Florida and Arizona and California anti-gay measures are part of a waning trend?

America just elected its first black president, in an election season that saw women getting closer than ever to the presidency and vice-presidency. A few people have already lamented the nation’s self-congratulatory tone about this, but fuck that. Now is the time for the nation to be self-congratulatory. Even many ardent Republican partisans have admitted to being disappointed and angry and yet also proud right now, and I think that’s great. We are a nation that likes to get on the right side of history. We are a nation that desperately wants to prove that we do, really, at base, believe in equality—and we’re only getting more open to expanding the definition of equality with each generation (I can’t find a link now, but in Cali., the 18-29 voters were against the ban by at least 10 percentage points). We will get on the right side of this, too.

[Update: just read that Prop. 8 did, in fact, pass. The picture with this story makes me … well, not doubt what I said above, but … tampers my optimism a little. ‘Yay! We’re SO PROFOUNDLY EXCITED to deny people equal treatment under the law!’ ….]


Written by Elizabeth

November 5, 2008 at 12:30 pm

On Zebra Cones, the Palins, and Choice

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Let’s pretend you and I have serious disagreements about soft-serve ice-cream. I think zebra cones with chocolate sprinkles are the best; you insist pure chocolate with rainbow sprinkles is the only way to go. One day, we happen to find ourselves at a Creamy Whip together. True to my long-held ice-cream convictions, I order a zebra cone with chocolate sprinkles. Having witnessed this, you’d have to choice but to order the same, conceding that, yes, chocolate-sprinkled zebra-cones are the best, that, in fact, every type of soft-serve other than chocolate-sprinkled zebra-cones should be outlawed.

Wait, no? It doesn’t work that way?

Then can someone please explain to me how this argument makes any sense?*

First Sarah herself is asked, in the early stages of her pregnancy with son Trig, whether she would like to abort him because he had Downs Syndrome, and now her 17 year old daughter who could have very easily aborted her child without her mother’s permission … chooses to bring her baby to term. I’m pretty impressed. She and her family are dealing with the very real effects of choosing life, of rejecting abortion. She and her family are taking responsibility and showing the rest of the country how its done.

How problematic is it going to be for someone like Biden to hit Palin on the issue of reproductive freedom? She can just easily say, listen…”both me and my daughter have been faced with the option to abort our children rather than suffering through the undeniable harships of raising a disabled child or being teenage mom. We were both lucky enough that our family supported our choices.

I feel I am uniquely qualified to speak on the subject, Mr. Biden. After all, I made the choice myself.”

The fact that Sarah (and, putatively, Bristol) Palin hold deep-seated beliefs that abortion is wrong and thus, when faced with difficult pregnancies, decided not to abort makes them not hypocrites. It makes them morally honest and, sure, even strong, or brave. It does not, however, prove in any way that they are “right.” And it cannot really be seen as evidence that the other side is wrong. That’s just not how choice architecture works.

* Using E.M. Zanotti’s post as a stand-in for the many places I’ve seen this argument.

Written by Elizabeth

September 5, 2008 at 3:11 am

Ellen Page lays the smack down on the Juno abortion debate

with 2 comments

The whole Is-this-movie-pro-life-or-pro-choice? debate that snarled up around Knocked Up and Waitress and was resurrected with the popularity of Juno always seemed a bit tedious, even to an ex-film-kid like myself who was well-schooled in writing earnest feminist critiques of Halloween III or great sociological musings on Porky’s. I mean, I could dig the people who just sort of level-headedly examined the treatment of abortion in the films. But then you had some pro-lifers ready to give Apertow and Cody merit badges and membership pins and some pro-choicers cursing them because their characters didn’t get abortions, and it just seemed very silly that either side would see the absense of abortion in these films as apropos of anything since, you know, that particular plot point was kind essential to these films existing in the first place. Film scripts aren’t written about things not-happening (that’s reserved for theater).

Anyway, I was glad to see that Ellen Page, it seems, would agree:

Is “Juno” a pro-life movie?

Not in the slightest, and if you knew me and if you knew the writer and the director, no one would ever say that. It happens to be a film about a girl who has a baby and gives it to a yuppie couple. That’s what the movie’s about. Like, I’m really sorry to everyone that she doesn’t have an abortion, but that’s not what the film is about. She goes to an abortion clinic and she completely examines all the opportunities and all the choices allowed her and that’s obviously the most crucial thing. It’s as simple as that.

I like how she gets it in there that Juno had choices, and therefore the actual choice that she made it totally irrelevant, while still managing to sound completely exasperated by the whole debate.

Written by Elizabeth

February 20, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Feminism

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