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May 26, 2008

To Choice: Good News/Bad News

Being the super dedicated bloggers that we are means that we're constantly doing research and reading about a whole mess of different issues. Since we've been working on a series about abortion myths, we've been reading even more about choice issues, and we've actually been pleasantly surprised by a lot of positive news in the last couple of weeks. Of course, in our society today the bad news is never too far off, so unfortunately we felt like we had to include some of that in our update as a reminder not to celebrate too much.

Good News:

~An abortion ultrasound bill failed to pass in the Florida Senate. The bill would have required women to have an ultrasound before they could terminate a pregnancy.

~Republicans in the Kansas Senate tried and failed to override Governor Kathleen Sebelius's veto of an anti-abortion bill. The bill would have "imposed more restrictions on abortion providers, and would have allowed family members of patients to sue if they think a doctor had performed or was about to perform an illegal late-term abortion. The bill would have also endangered patient privacy, allowing prosecutors to access medical records in order to investigate reports of alleged violations of abortion law." The Senate actually voted in favor of overriding the veto, but they could not come up with the necessary two-thirds majority of votes.

~A federal appeals court overturned Virginia's late-term abortion ban, declaring it unconstitutional and more restrictive than the federal version of the ban. This is the second time the Virginia law has been struck down by the court.

Bad News:

It looks like several states will have anti-abortion measures on their ballots in November.

~In Colorado, anti-abortion groups have gathered enough signatures to place a "personhood initiative" on the ballot. "This "personhood initiative" declares that a fertilized egg is a "person" who enjoys "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of the law." The measure would threaten not only abortion itself, but IUDs, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics, and stem cell research." Petition drives for similar initiatives are still going on in Montana and Mississippi.

~Anti-choice groups are back at it in South Dakota. They've gathered enough signatures to place an abortion ban ballot initiative on the ballot. This ban is only slightly less restrictive than the one that was defeated in the state in 2006, and would make it practically impossible to get an abortion.

Good News:

~In the UK, MPs have rejected an attempt to cut the upper limit on abortions from 24 to 22 weeks. Earlier attempts to cut the ban down to 16 or 12 weeks were also voted down. "Pro-choice campaigners said there was no scientific evidence to justify a cut in the limit."

~Emergency Contraception has been approved for over the counter sale in Canada. The Plan B pill previously had behind-the-counter status, and was available from pharmacies upon request and without a prescription, reports Reuters. (And thinking about how important the distinction between over-the-counter and behind-the-counter can be, especially for young women, just reminded me of the time that I called Lilith from CVS to chat about nothing and distract from the fact that I was buying a pregnancy test. Ah, memories.)

Bad News:

~The American Life League has launched a new anti-birth control campaign called The Pill Kills. We can learn quite a lot from this campaign - birth control causes abortions, sex outside of marriage is "seriously wrong", it is a "proven fact" that life begins with a fertilized egg, abstinence is "always" the "best choice" for single people, and Planned Parenthood "brainwashes" and lies to women because they are just in it for the "big money" that they make. Apparently they are organizing 'Protest the Pill Day' for June 7th. Can't wait for that.

Mixed News:

~Bush appointee Susan Orr has resigned from her position as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Population Affairs. The fact that she has quit is the good part.
Her position oversees the administration of Title X, the only federal funding program providing contraceptive services to low-income women and men, but she had applauded President Bush's proposal to eliminate the requirement that federal employees' health insurance provide coverage for a range of birth control methods, saying, "We're quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]."
However, the timing of her resignation seems a little sketchy in light of what else is going on right now.
Her resignation shortly followed after the the Family Research Council, the organization she was formerly employed with (along with 80 other conservative groups) called on George Bush to reinstate a "domestic gag rule." Like the Global Gag Rule, this means that eligibility for Title X funds (which covers a huge chunk of our nation's family planning clinics) will require that centers don't refer patients for abortions or share facilities with abortion providers.
Kinda makes you wonder who Susan Orr was really working for while she was employed by the government, and why she chose this particular moment to abruptly quit the job she has held for less than a year. Of course, we'll be watching to see what happens next with this story and all of the others above it, and we'll keep sharing all of the good and the bad with all of you.

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