Tag Archives: abortion

Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths Are–NOT

Even in Kansas–a deep-red state--voters have seen through the pious lies of the forced birth movement.

Rabid anti-abortion activists insist that they care about “both”–the woman and the fetus that they insist upon calling a baby. The New York Times recently published some data that shows just how hollow that declaration really is.

Pro-choice advocates have long emphasized that hollowness: the fact that the forced-birth movement conveniently ignores the complexities of pregnancy and its impact on women’s health, and the fact that once those little fetuses become actual babies, interest in their welfare magically evaporates. As the saying goes, the Times article brings the receipts.

The headline and sub-head really tell the story: “States With Abortion Bans Are Among Least Supportive for Mothers and Children.” “They tend to have the weakest social services and the worst results in several categories of health and well-being.” Extensive charts confirm the message that the states that are most hostile to abortion score poorly on a wide variety of health and well-being outcomes, while states supportive of abortion rights  have more generous social safety nets.

You might conclude that–in states where legislators actually give a rat’s patootie about women and babies–they pass laws that both respect female autonomy and provide support for the children of women who choose to give birth. They put their money where their mouths are.

Let’s look at Mississippi–a state Indiana seems to be trying to emulate:

In Mississippi, which brought the abortion case that ended Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, Gov. Tate Reeves vowed that the state would now “take every step necessary to support mothers and children.”

Today, however, Mississippi fares poorly on just about any measure of that goal. Its infant and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the nation.

State leaders have rejected the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, leaving an estimated 43,000 women of reproductive age without health insurance. They have chosen not to extend Medicaid to women for a full year after giving birth. And they have a welfare program that gives some of the country’s least generous cash assistance — a maximum of $260 a month for a poor mother raising two children.

If it was only Mississippi, that would be bad enough, but the Times investigation found that in the 24 states that have banned abortion (or probably will) policies on a broad range of outcomes are substantially worse than in states where abortion will probably remain legal. The article cited policies on child and maternal mortality, teenage birthrates and the share of women and children who have no health insurance.

The majority of these states have turned down the yearlong Medicaid postpartum extension. Nine have declined the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which provides health care to the poor. None offer new parents paid leave from work to care for their newborns.

One of the charts accompanying the text lists the states that have banned or dramatically restricted abortion or are likely to, along with their ranks on lack of insurance, maternal and infant mortality, and child poverty. (They all appear to be Red states. Indiana, unsurprisingly, is toward the bottom of those categories, just as we are at the bottom of states in voter turnout–which may not be a data point as unconnected as it first appears…among other issues, gerrymandering is bad for women.)

Indiana ranks 30th in its percentage of insured women; 41st in maternal mortality; 39th in infant mortality, and 28th in child poverty.  Those rankings are likely to sink even further after our retrograde legislature’s attack on women’s autonomy.

The article also acknowledges the role of racism.

Studies have repeatedly found that states where the safety net is less generous and harder to access tend to be those with relatively more Black residents. That has further implications for Black women, who have a maternal mortality rate nationally that is nearly three times that of white women.

The article has other examples of “pro life” states’ lack of concern for those “precious babies” once they are actually born.

None of the states that have banned abortion (or are likely to) guarantee parents paid leave from work to care for and bond with their newborns. Just 11 states and the District of Columbia do. Paid leave has been shown to benefit infants’ health and mothers’ physical and mental health as well as their economic prospects.

In most states, there is no guaranteed child care for children until they enter kindergarten at age 5. Subsidies available to low-income families cover a small segment of eligible children, ranging from less than 4 percent in Arkansas (which now bans abortion) to more than 17 percent in Vermont (which passed abortion rights legislation).

I encourage you to click through. Read the statistics and peruse the charts. And the next time someone piously proclaims that they “love them both,” hand them a copy.

 

Another Form Of Rape

Indiana AG Todd Rokita is one of the few politicians in our polarized age who is despised on both sides of the political aisle. His naked ambition has led him into the fever swamps of the far Right, and the most recent example–reported in the linked article from Talking Points Memo–was his effort to smear the ob-gyn who terminated the pregnancy of a raped ten-year-old.

Rokita suggested that the doctor, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, had failed to file mandated reports with the state about the abuse and the abortion. At least, Rokita claimed, he could find no evidence for any reports. Bernard is an “abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report,” Rokita told Fox News on Wednesday. “We’re gathering the information, we’re gathering the evidence as we speak and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at [Bernard’s] licensure, if she failed to report. In Indiana it’s a crime for … to intentionally not report.”

If Rokita weren’t shameless, he would have apologized after Indianapolis’ Fox affiliate easily ascertained–via a simple public records request– that Bernard had properly filed all required paperwork, and had also reported that the patient was a victim of abuse. (That abuse had also been reported to authorities in Ohio by the girl’s physician there.)

In other words Rokita went forward with a series of defamatory claims and accusations against Bernard and called down a nationwide campaign of harassment and vilification against her apparently without even the most cursory of records checks that were not only available to him as attorney general but members of the public in roughly 24 hours.

Rokita is one of several despicable Republicans who responded to the initial reports about a pregnant ten-year-old with accusations that the incident was manufactured–that the child didn’t exist, and that the rape and pregnancy were inventions of those hated liberals. 

Those attacks were really another form of rape.

I never doubted the accuracy of the report, but–like most Americans–assumed that a pregnancy in someone so young was a very rare situation. I was shocked to learn that it is far less rare than I had supposed.

The New York Times recently reported that  more than 1,000 girls under 15 seek abortions each year.

An article in The New Republic reported  figures from countries with total or near-total bans on abortion.

In Paraguay, where abortion is banned unless it threatens the mother’s life, health officials forced an 11-year-old girl to carry a pregnancy until she could obtain a cesarean section after she was raped by her stepfather in 2015. An 11-year-old girl in Argentina, which had similarly strict laws until recently, delivered a 23-week-old baby by cesarean section in 2019 after officials there refused to allow her to obtain an abortion. The young Argentine girl reportedly attempted suicide twice and begged doctors to “remove what the old man put inside me.”

It’s unclear exactly how often this phenomenon occurs—and even a single instance of it is heartrending—but available numbers suggest it occurs with some frequency. Amnesty International reported last year that in Paraguay, which ranks between New Jersey and Arizona in population, more than 1,000 girls who were 14 years old or younger gave birth in 2019 and early 2020. An analysis this week by The Columbus Dispatch found 50 reports of rape or sexual abuse toward girls 15 years old or younger in Columbus, Ohio, since May of this year. Using data from the Ohio Department of Health, the newspaper also reported that 306 girls who were 15 years old or younger obtained an abortion in that state between 2016 and 2020.

The article went on to quote the truly horrifying reaction to this particular incident by those who have spearheaded the forced birth movement.

Jim Bopp, an Indiana lawyer who serves as the general counsel for the National Right to Life organization, told Politico on Thursday that the model legislation he drafted for Indiana would have required the 10-year-old girl to continue the pregnancy. “She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,” Bopp told the news outlet.

It seems like the denialism isn’t really about the 10-year-old girl in question but rather about obfuscating the natural consequences of overturning Roe. By eliminating the constitutional right to reproductive self-government and enacting abortion bans without rape or incest exemptions, anti-abortion activists have implicitly created a new right to take Roe’s place. Rapists can now rest assured that if they impregnate their victim, state and local governments will work tirelessly to ensure that the survivor—even if she is a 10-year-old girl—carries that pregnancy to term.

Welcome to MAGA world.
 

Don’t Know Much About History…

It’s not just a song by Sam Cooke…

This Fourth of July, Americans aren’t only fighting over our future; we are also fighting over our past–and the need to learn from it. That requires  a clear-eyed encounter with history– accurate history.

Efforts to teach a non-whitewashed  ( pun intended) history in the public schools has been met with so-called “anti-CRT” bills, angry parents accusing school boards of blaming today’s children for the sins of the past, and “patriotic Americans” demanding that history classes emphasize the ‘greatness” of the country and minimize or ignore deviations from our Constitutional aspirations.

The Supreme Court was able to count on that ignorance of actual history in its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson.

In that decision overruling Roe v. Wade, Justice Alito relied substantially on a dishonest recitation of American history  to justify his result.  Few Americans were in a position to point to that dishonesty and set the record straight. I have previously posted on this subject, but let me repeat a portion of what Randall Ballmer, an eminent historian of Evangelical Christianity, has written.

Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

Ballmer tells us that Falwell and Weyrich, who were furious about efforts to tax their segregation academies, were “savvy enough” to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would encounter moral blowback. “Saving babies” was far more palatable.

Another scholar who has criticized the ahistorical tale told by Justice Alito is  Geoffrey Stone, who authored “Sex and the Constitution” and  teaches law at the University of Chicago. Stone was a Supreme Court Clerk when Roe was decided; as he says,

Americans, almost all, believed at that time that abortion had always been illegal, that it had always been criminal. And no one would have imagined that abortion was legal in every state at the time the Constitution was adopted, and it was fairly common. But people didn’t know that.

The justices came to understand the history of abortion partly because [Justice Harry] Blackmun previously had been general counsel [at the Mayo Clinic] and researched all this stuff. But this history also began to be put forth by the women’s movement. And this was eye-opening to the justices, because they had, I’m sure every one of them, assumed abortion had been illegal back to the beginning of Christianity. And they were just shocked to realize that was not the case, and that prohibiting abortion was impairing what the framers thought to be … a woman’s “fundamental interest.”…

In the 18th century, abortion was completely legal before what was called the “quickening” of a fetus – when a woman could first feel fetal movement, or roughly four and a half months through a pregnancy. No state prohibited it, and it was common. Post-quickening, about half the states prohibited abortion at the time the Constitution was adopted. But even post-quickening, very few people were ever prosecuted for getting an abortion or performing an abortion in the founding era.

This accurate history gives the lie to Justice Alito’s claim that the right to abortion was not ” deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions.” Several other historians–notably Heather Cox Richardson–have also disputed Alito’s characterization.

It’s highly unlikely that teaching more accurate history would have included the history of reproductive rights, but it would have–and should have–included those elements of the American past that gave rise to the racial and religious divisions we are experiencing today. Going through school, as I did, without ever encountering the Trail of Tears, the Tulsa massacre, the rise of the KKK and so much else leaves students without important context they need in order to understand today’s political debates. (It’s not just the omissions; we are now discovering that the tales we were told, and told to remember,  were often twisted...)

As legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar recently argued, “originalism” needn’t be dismissed as simply a dishonest tactic employed by radically conservative judges. Based on good, accurate history, it can be surprisingly progressive.

 

 

Ve-e-ery Interesting!

Younger readers of this blog–assuming there are some–probably don’t remember Laugh-In, a comedy skit show by Rowan and Martin that was considered edgy for its time. One of the regulars on that show was a comic named Arte Johnson, who would pop up after a segment (often in a pith helmet) and intone (in what I recall as a faux German accent) “Veeery interesting!”

A recent article from Bloomberg elicited a similar reaction from me. It reported on an unanticipated outcome of the dangerous Texas law establishing bounties on people who help women obtain abortions. It was–in Johnson’s memorable phrase–“veeery interesting.”

The article reported on the response of the corporate community to the Texas’s law –an  approach that has triggered passage of similar and increasingly restrictive abortion laws in other states. Named the “heartbeat bill” (a medically-inaccurate characterization), it bans abortions after six-weeks and deputizes private citizens to bring civil lawsuits against anyone they suspect or know helped a woman obtain one. The measure has prompted passage of a similar bill in Idaho, and Florida’s retrograde legislature has approved a ban on abortions after 15 weeks– with no exceptions for rape or incest. Other Red states are following.

 As the Bloomberg article reminded readers, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on a Mississippi case that its newly conservative majority will likely use to significantly weaken if not overrule Roe v. Wade. When that occurs–and it would be shocking if it didn’t, given the current makeup of the Court–  26 states are certain or likely to largely outlaw abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In a surprising reaction, corporate America is responding to the threat.

The roar of anti-abortion laws sweeping through U.S. state houses is echoing loudly in human resources offices.

Companies that have offered to help cover travel costs for employees who have to go out of state for abortions are trying to figure out how to go about it. Large corporations like Citigroup Inc., Apple Inc., Bumble Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. are now offering such benefits for reproductive-care services not available in an employee’s home state.

The report notes that most health insurance plans cover the costs of abortions, but in the  Red states with abortion bans, companies need to create a mechanism to ensure  that their employees have access to safe and medically appropriate terminations. They are exploring how to protect their workers’ privacy and especially how to fend off legal actions that might be brought by states looking to block such workarounds.

Laura Spiekerman, co-founder of New York-based startup Alloy, told Bloomberg News that reimbursing workers for abortion-related travel is the “low bar” of what companies should do. “I’m surprised and disappointed more companies aren’t doing it,” she said.

The company — which has a handful of employees in states with restrictive abortion laws like Florida, Arizona and Mississippi — in January said that it would pay up to $1,500 toward travel expenses for employees or their partners needing to travel out of state for abortions. Alloy also said it would cover 50% of legal costs up to $5,000 if any employee or their partner had to deal with legal issues due to anti-abortion laws.

The numbers are significant: some 40 million women of reproductive age live in states that are hostile to abortion rights. Those states passed more than 100 anti-abortion laws in 2021, “the highest number in the nearly half a century since Roe v. Wade, according to Guttmacher.”

The article highlights some creative responses.  

Dallas-based Match Group Inc. is partnering with a third party for a similar benefit to Alloy’s. Any Match employee in Texas can call a toll-free number dedicated to the program to reach Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, which will arrange travel and lodging paid for by a fund Match Chief Executive Officer Shar Dubey created last year to cover such costs for staffers and dependents, according to a company spokesperson. Eligibility would be determined through a third-party employment verification vendor.

Meanwhile, the hard-right turn of several states is becoming a negative factor in business location decisions. When Texas  passed its abortion law in September, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said the company would help staffers relocate from the state. Solugen Inc., a Texas chemicals company, said the state’s social policies were making it difficult to attract talent so it was planning to open another facility elsewhere.

State-level abortion restrictions cost those economies $105 billion annually by cutting labor force participation and earnings, and increasing turnover and time off from work, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And women who want an abortion but don’t get one are four times more likely to live below the federal poverty level.

I guess when you are a political party dominated by religious crusaders, economic repercussions are irrelevant…

 

 

 

 

 

Coerced Abortion

The pious frauds in the Indiana legislature have once again displayed their utter lack of self-awareness or integrity.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the World’s Worst Legislature–or at least the Senate portion of that embarrassing body–has passed a measure that will criminalize “coerced abortion.”

The Indiana Senate approved new abortion regulations on Tuesday by a 38-10 vote in an attempt to limit “coerced” abortions.

Supporters say it’s a necessary layer of protection to prevent Hoosier women from being forced into an unwanted abortion and to catch human traffickers, while opponents say the requirements just further stigmatize abortions without actually helping women.

Now, I will grant you that the Indiana legislature is not known for exercises in logic or for considering that pesky thing called “evidence,” but if they were so inclined, they would discover that such coercion is far less likely to be exercised by a parent or male partner than by the reality of poverty.

Data compiled by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops–a very pro-life organization–is unequivocal:

Surveys indicate that low-income women are more against abortion than other women. Yet economic realities pressure many to act against their convictions. This has been a disturbing reality for a long time, and is getting worse.

In a 2005 study, 73% of women undergoing an abortion said not being able to afford a baby now was a reason for the abortion. That number rose to 81% for women below the federal poverty line. And while the abortion rate for American women declined by 8% between 2000 and 2008, among poor American women it increased by 18%.

It occurred to me that Catholic social teachings  about poverty might have incentivized the bishops to cherry-pick the data. But no–research conducted by the pro-choice  Guttmacher Institute has come to the same conclusion, as has a study published in 2017 by the American Journal of Public Health.

Studies have determined that most women having abortions– fifty-nine percent of them in 2014 –had had at least one previous birth. But  three-fourths of them were low income—49% living at less than the federal poverty level, and 26% living at 100–199% of the poverty level. Many also lacked health insurance, and in the U.S., even an uncomplicated childbirth is very expensive.

Bottom line, readily available data confirms that not being able to afford a child–or another child–is what impels (coerces) a large number of women to abort. So clearly, it’s the  lawmakers who consistently vote for public policies that operate to keep women impoverished who are really guilty of “coercing” women to terminate their pregnancies.

The piety police in our legislature have chosen to ignore such “inconvenient” data. To the contrary; the GOP super-majority has doggedly pursued policies intended to keep all Hoosiers–especially female Hoosiers–poor. I’ve written previously about the ALICE reports issued by the Indiana United Ways. Those meticulous reports should embarrass lawmakers sufficiently to motivate change. But this is Indiana, so… no.

The same lawmakers who purport to be concerned about “coercion” of abortion have steadfastly refused to raise Indiana’s minimum wage, which has remained at 7.25/hour since 2008, despite copious evidence that full-time minimum wage work doesn’t even rise to the level of subsistence–and despite data from places that have raised the wage that convincingly rebuts the old argument that a higher minimum wage translates into fewer jobs.

Worse still, In Indiana, lots of folks don’t even get that 7.25 an hour–they’re exempt from the requirement. Employees who are exempt from this minimum wage include:

Tipped employees must be paid a cash minimum of $2.13 per hour, with a $5.12 tip credit to earn $7.25 an hour (including tips).

A special training minimum wage of $4.25 per hour can be paid to workers under 20 years of age for the first 90 days of employment.

Full-time high school and college students can be paid 85 percent of Indiana minimum wage ($6.16) if they are participating in a work-study program or working 20 or fewer hours per week.

And don’t even whisper about providing expanded or universal health care…why, in Indiana, that’s commie talk.

Genuinely “pro-life” lawmakers would support policies making it easier for low-income pregnant women to afford birthing and feeding the child they’re carrying. But that might cost money better spent on tax cuts and/or the priorities of their donors–so these phonies opt to vote for meaningless performative policies.

If this piece of garbage legislation becomes law, the “coercers” who should be criminally charged are the members of Indiana’s GOP super-majority. But thanks to gerrymandering, most of them won’t even lose their seats…