Ohio introduces an antiabortion bill similar to that of Texas, but worse: it bans all abortions

November 4, 2021 • 9:15 am

Yes, the states are falling like dominoes: just yesterday Ohio passed an abortion law whose enforcement mechanism is similar to that of Texas, but the restrictions on abortion are even more stringent.  Read the article from The Hill by clicking on the screenshot:

An excerpt:

The bill, called the 2363 Act, which the lawmakers said is the number of children lost to abortion everyday in the U.S., seeks to ban all abortions in Ohio and, like the Texas law, empower “any person” to bring civil action against an individual who performs and abortion or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.”

Individuals who filed such lawsuits will be permitted to ask for $10,000 or more, according to Cleveland.com.

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The legislation does not include exceptions for rape or incest, but it would shield abortion patients from being sued by individuals who may have gotten them pregnant through rape or another form of sexual violence.

Well goody goody for that last stipulation!  The difference between Ohio and Texas is not only that generous stipulation, but the declaration of illegality of all abortions (for Texas it’s when there’s a fetal heartbeat—about six weeks after conception).

Can you guess which party introduced the bill? You won’t be wrong? One more excerpt:

“The sanctity of human life, born and preborn, must be preserved in Ohio,” Powell said, according to Cleveland.com. “The 2363 Act is about protecting our fundamental, constitutional right to be born and live. Abortion kills children, scars families, and harms women. We can and must do better.”

Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D) slammed the bill, calling it “an egregious assault on women, a dangerous attack on healthcare rights and an embarrassment for our state,” adding that “Ohio Republicans want to control women, but we won’t be silent.”

“Criminalizing care will disproportionately impact women of color, nonbinary people and those already at a disadvantage in our health and criminal justice system. …Once again, Republicans are showing that the everyday needs of Ohioans are less important than scoring political points, likes and retweets,” Sykes said, according to Cleveland.com.

I wish they hadn’t racialized the bill in this way. I think pro-choice is the right thing to do for everyone, and is not a palliative for racism. It’s like arguing for gun control because guns disproportionately kill people of color. Anyway, if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, which is at this moment adjudicating the Texas bill, regulation of abortion will be thrown back to the states, and this kind of thing will be passed in many states.  I’m pretty sure that the Supremes won’t allow the “vigilante enforcement” procedure to stand, but without Roe v. Wade Ohio’s bill won’t need it.

You can read the ten-page bill by clicking on its first page below:

Here’s the heartbeat of the bill; note the cribbing from the Declaration of Independence:

And you have four years to bring suit and get your $10,000 reward for incriminating people. Note that the woman who has the abortion herself cannot be sued; it’s an attempt to stop abortion by intimidating abortion providers.

Since the Ohio legislature is majority Republican, and the governor is also Republican, things don’t look good.

Texas makes no bones about its new abortion law, asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade

October 22, 2021 • 9:15 am

I received a link to this article in an email from Esquire Magazine, which baffles me because I never read the thing and never asked for alerts. Nevertheless, I read the very short article, in which author Charles P. Pierce shows that the draconian new Texas anti-abortion law is explicitly designed to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. As you know, that law allows abortion in the first and sometimes second trimester of pregnancy. And you may remember that the case was decided in 1973 by a 7-2 vote on the grounds that the the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment confers a “right to privacy” that protects a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

Texas’s law, which protects all fetuses that have a heartbeat, even those resulting from rape and incest, is manifestly unconstitutional (heartbeats start about six weeks in), and yet has been affirmed by appeals courts. (The law also is supposed to be enforced by citizen vigilantes.) It’s now before the Supreme Court, with the Dept. of Justice appealing for the Supremes to strike it down. The Court then asked Texas to answer the DoJ’s filing, which is the subject of Pierce’s column.

You can read his piece by clicking on the screenshot, but also be mindful that there is an antiabortion law from Mississippi scheduled to be heard by the Supremes in December. That case, Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, is explained by BallotPedia:

The newly-enacted [Mississippi] law prohibited abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. The U.S. district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the law was unconstitutional, and put a permanent stop to the law’s enforcement. On appeal, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.

This violates Roe v. Wade in prohibiting almost all abortions during the second trimester. If the Supreme Court were to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s affirmation of the district court ruling, then it would be overturning—or at least well on the way to overturning—Roe v. Wade.

Now, about the Texas law:

Pierce quotes from page 49 of Texas’s response to the DoJ, and adds this:

On Thursday, Texas filed its answer to the administration’s request that the Supreme Court block the draconian new Texas anti-choice law. In that answer, toward the end, the kitty comes screeching from the burlap.

The federal government criticized Texas for not “forthrightly . . . asking this Court to revisit its decisions.” Texas has done so now.

Despite the Court’s hope that its decision in Casey would “call[] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution,” abortion remains a divisive issue. There will always be those who deem abortion “nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life.” Consequently, there will always be States who seek to protect unborn life through their laws, and there will be those who seek to challenge such laws, unless and until this Court returns the question of abortion to where it belongs—the States.

If the Court decides to construe the federal government’s application as a cert petition, it may also construe this response as a conditional cross-petition on the question whether the Constitution recognizes and protects a right to abortion and whether the Court should reconsider its decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Pierce’s interpretation, which isn’t hard to discern, is this:

Texas is saying that if the Court takes up the administration’s case against a Texas law that essentially repeals Roe in practice, it may consider Texas’s response to be a request that the Court repeal its previous decisions on the subject outright. They don’t care about the gender gap anymore. They don’t really see politics that way anymore. Qui audet adipisciturgoes the saying.

I don’t think that Texas has been this explicit before, but of course we all know that although most Americans favor Roe v. Wade, religionists and Republicans in particular (there’s substantial overlap) want that ruling in the dumpster. Below are the latest Gallup statistics on what Americans feel about the 1973 decision. Only 32% think that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, while nearly twice that (58%) don’t want it overturned.

Now of course the Supreme Court is supposed to rule on Constitutionality, not popular support, but given that the Court previously ruled 7-2 in favor of a right to abortion, overturning the law now would be a severe violation of stare decisis. It will be an interesting year for the Supreme Court, but I’m not optimistic.

New appeal leads to reinstatement of Texas’s restrictive abortion law

October 9, 2021 • 10:15 am

Most of you know about Texas’s restrictive new abortion law, which bans all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected—about six weeks into pregnancy. Past that point, abortions are not allowed even in cases of rape or incest.

To add insult to injury (seriously: you have to carry a rapist’s or relative’s baby to term?), the Texas legislature allowed regular citizens to enforce the law, making it harder to declare it unconstitutional (even though it is). Everyone is “deputized” to enforce the law, allowing citizens to sue anybody who aids in an “illegal abortion” (including the Uber driver taking the woman to a clinic) for $10,000.  Finally, the provision makes the law retroactive even if it is blocked, so if it’s “paused,” as it was for a few days this week, legal abortions conducted during that pause can be considered illegal after the law kicks in again, and the providers sued. It’s nefarious, and designed to make it hard to legally block the law.

Nevertheless, after a request from Biden’s Justice Department, the law was blocked on Wednesday by federal judge Robert Pitman, who didn’t pull any punches in his 113-page decision.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” he wrote in his opinion.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he added.

Well, the exercise of that right lasted just two days. A three judge panel in the conservative Fifth Circuit of Texas ruled that Texas’s law would take effect again, although temporarily. Previously illegal abortions started up again (even though clinics could be sued later), but most clinics suspended activity. The panel gave the Justice Department until 5 p.m. Tuesday to respond to Texas’s appeal, but the unanimity and terseness of the ruling suggests that the Firth Circuit will permanently reinstate the law some time after Tuesday. You can see the two-page ruling here, but here’s the gist:

As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene before the law went into effect, a decision that baffles me because, according to present law, Texas’s law was palpably unconstitutional. That may changes as they move toward overturning Roe v. Wade, which I once thought unlikely but now think probable. So, as of now, the women of Texas are forced to obey an unconstitutional law, seeking abortions in other states if they’re past the sixth week of pregnancy.

A quote from the NYT piece:

“The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness,” Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas.”

But the Supremes have already refused to step in, and, in an upcoming Mississippi case about a similar law, may step in in a way we don’t like.

ACLU admits it screwed up by changing RBG’s words; Michelle Goldberg explains why the changes were misleading

September 28, 2021 • 9:15 am

A week ago I called attention to a tweet by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that quoted but redacted some words by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). The ACLU made six changes in just one short quote, including an omission. Here’s what they tweeted:

Here are her real words, which according to Michelle Goldberg’s NYT article below, were uttered during RBG’s 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. As usual, RBG didn’t pull any punches!

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I added this in my post:

There are six changes, five in brackets, getting rid of “woman” and “her” (substituting “persons” and “people” for “woman” and “they” or “their” for three “hers”).  The missing part of the quote, which is “It is a decision she must make for herself”, could have been altered to “It is a decision they must make for themselves,” but that would add two more sets of brackets and make the whole quotation look really weird.

The explanation is simple and obvious; they are removing RBG’s reference to women having babies since the ACLU, whose mission now includes a substantial amount of transgender activism, is onboard with the idea that transmen, who are now given the pronouns “he” and “men”, can have babies. And indeed, transmen have given birth.

The ACLU is heavily into transsexual rights, which is fine since those are civil rights, but they’ve gone overboard on this before (one of their staff attorneys called for the censorship of Abigail Shrier’s book, and did so again by drastically changing RBG’s words. They’re also slowly but surely removing themselves from defending the First Amendment.  Here’s the tweet (now removed) by their chief attorney for transsexual issues:

I’m pretty fed up with the ACLU, though they’re still doing some good work. But back to the RBG redaction. In her op-ed, Michelle Goldberg (click on screenshot below) puts her finger on two reasons why the alteration of RBG’s words was misleading and invidious.

While Goldberg bends over backwards to approve of gender-inclusive language, she criticizes the ACLU’s changes for two reasons. The first one I raised in my post; the second is one that is more likely to be spotted and raised by a woman.

This was a mistake for two reasons, one that’s easy to talk about, and one that’s hard.

The easy one is this: It’s somewhat Orwellian to rewrite historical utterances to conform to modern sensitivities. No one that I’m aware of used gender-neutral language to talk about pregnancy and abortion in 1993; it wasn’t until 2008 that Thomas Beatie became famous as what headlines sometimes called the “First Pregnant Man.” There’s a difference between substituting the phrase “pregnant people” for “pregnant women” now, and pretending that we have always spoken of “pregnant people.”

What’s more difficult to discuss is how making Ginsburg’s words gender-neutral alters their meaning. That requires coming to terms with a contentious shift in how progressives think and talk about sex and reproduction. Changing Ginsburg’s words treats what was once a core feminist insight — that women are oppressed on the basis of their reproductive capacity — as an embarrassing anachronism. The question then becomes: Is it?

Goldberg clearly thinks “no, it’s not an embarrassing anachronism”, but for a reason that some trans-activists might oppose. (Bolding below is mine.)

A gender-inclusive understanding of reproduction is in keeping with the goal of a society free of sex hierarchies. It is one thing to insist that women shouldn’t be relegated to second-class status because they can bear children. It’s perhaps more radical to define sex and gender so that childbearing is no longer women’s exclusive domain.

Yet I think there’s a difference between acknowledging that there are men who have children or need abortions — and expecting the health care system to treat these men with respect — and speaking as if the burden of reproduction does not overwhelmingly fall on women. You can’t change the nature of reality through language alone. Trying to do so can seem, to employ a horribly overused word, like a form of gaslighting.

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote. You can interpret this to support the contemporary notion of sex and gender as largely matters of self-identification. Or you can interpret it as many older feminists have, as a statement about how the world molds you into a woman, of how certain biological experiences reveal your place in the social order, and how your identity develops in response to gender’s constraints.

Seen this way, a gender-neutral version of Ginsburg’s quote is unintelligible, because she was talking not about the right of all people to pursue their own reproductive destiny, but about how male control of women’s reproductive lives makes women part of a subordinate class. The erasure of gendered language can feel like an insult, because it takes away the terms generations of feminists used to articulate their predicament.

The way I would answer this myself is that childbearing remains the domain of biological women (i.e., people who, when born, fit into the biological definition of “female”), even if they’ve become transsexual men.  This is what I think Goldberg means by saying, slyly, that “you can’t change the nature of reality through language alone.”

Her real objection, which I’ve put in bold, is that reproduction is but one of women’s “biological experiences” (I suppose menstruation is another, though I don’t see oppression as a “biological experience”) that cannot be had by biological men, and by “women” she means the term as it was used by earlier feminists. By saying that a man can become pregnant, the oppressor then gains membership in the class (“men”) that many feminists saw and still see as oppressors.

Although Goldberg doesn’t say so, the problem is the failure to distinguish between biological men and women on one hand and men and women who identify as members of the other sex on the other. Importantly, to activists, transmen are considered men in every respect, just a stranswomen are considered full woman.

But to Goldberg, “full” neglects history. What really irks her (and I can understand and sympathize with her position), is that biological women can not only be called “men”, but assumed to be men in every respect, including, thinks Goldberg, in their historical position as oppressors of women. (By the way, I don’t think that the ACLU quote “erased” gendered language, which it didn’t, but erased sexed language.)

Goldberg’s contortions to avoid seeming “transphobic”, I think, has obscured her point, which is a semantic one. (Or so I think: I may have misinterpreted her point.)

And regardless, I think that she’s still going to be demonized for writing this column.  But to her (and the ACLU’s) credit, the organization seems to go along with her. She reports:

On Monday, Anthony Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., told me he regrets the R.B.G. tweet, and that in the future the organization won’t substantively alter anyone’s quotes. Still, he said, “Having spent time with Justice Ginsburg, I would like to believe that if she were alive today, she would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender, identity and sexuality.”

This may very well be the case. It’s also the case that she spoke specifically about women for a reason.

The problem is that the activists who approve of this redaction don’t care about altering history, even “for a reason”.  They just want to make historical language conform to modern norms.

Pastor Warren compares pro-choice views with anti-vaxers ( touts the benefit of religion in helping us making sacrifices for society

September 27, 2021 • 11:30 am

In her weekly New York Times column, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren makes two arguments. It’s not as bad as her other columns, as there’s actually some material for thought here, but, as usual, she winds up making bad arguments, and then touting the benefits of believing in God. Click to read:

Warren makes two arguments. The first is to point out what seems like hypocrisy when one considers “pro choice” people who don’t oppose abortion with “anti vaccine” people who object to getting shots. In both cases, says Warren, one is being asked to curtail one’s personal freedom (“my body, my choice”) for the benefit of society as a whole—or so she says. The implication is that this is doublethink:

At a protest against vaccine mandates, a hospital worker told New York’s Livingston County newspaper: “If you want it? Great. If you don’t? Great.” She continued: “Choice is where we stand. If you want it, we’re not against it. That’s your choice.” Those I know who have refused to get vaccinated or wear masks have echoed this same idea. They assure me that they aren’t telling anyone else what to do but that this is a matter of personal choice. They are doing what they think is best for themselves and their families.

“My body, my choice,” the rallying cry of the pro-choice movement, has been adopted by those opposing mask and vaccine mandates. People who are pro-choice have voiced outrage that their phrase is being co-opted, which in turn thrills those on the right who are using it.

In Vogue, Molly Jong-Fast said that the phrase, when used by conservatives who oppose vaccine mandates, shows that “for Republicans, it’s a case of government regulation for thee but not for me.” Of course, critics would accuse her of the same hypocrisy for being pro-choice but also favoring vaccine mandates.

What’s useful here is the inspiration to think about her premise: how far must we curtail our freedoms to help society What’s not useful—and she does say that “the complexities of abortion and Covid prevention are different”—is that the situations are not at all comparable in the nature of the “freedoms” curtailed. Unmasked and unvaccnated, you might be endangering strangers you come in contact with, and the masking will last only the duration of the pandemic. Shots are even less onerous, and protect more people than do masks.

Pregnant, you do not endanger society as a whole—unless, and this may be true of Warren—one thinks an abortion is committing murder. Further, you are bringing an unwanted child into the world who will require years of care, as reader Mike pointed out yesterday.

I’m pretty much in favor of unrestricted abortions, as I don’t see it as the equivalent of murder. Further, I also favor the termination of the lives of already-born infants who have invariably fatal conditions like anencephaly and will suffer horribly until the inevitable end. (Peter Singer has been demonized for holding this view.)

But you can think on your own about whether there is any “hypocrisy” in favoring vaccine mandates and also being pro-choice. It is food for thought.

The other argument is that only Christianity (she singles it out, but would probably add “religion in general”) gives us a moral basis for making self-sacrifice for the good of society.

Christian ethics call people to ideas of freedom that are not primarily understood as the absence of restraint, but instead as the ability to live well, justly and righteously. In Galatians, after an extended meditation on liberation, Paul says: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Freedom, for him, had a purpose and end, a “telos.” We are freed not to do whatever we feel is best for us individually, but instead to love our neighbors.

. . . .Over the past year as we’ve asked people to go into lockdown, cancel their travel plans or family gatherings, close or curtail their retail businesses, wear masks and get vaccinated, we are asking them to assume some level of financial and personal risk for the greater good — for strangers, for the elderly, for the immunocompromised, for the medical community. We can and should enact legislation like paid family leave, no-cost health care and other measures to support mothers, just as we support economic relief for those affected by Covid prevention. But we cannot deny that even if we seek to lessen the load, we are asking people to bear a burden.

How do you call a society committed to personal freedom and happiness to bear the burdens of others? Most of us intuitively grasp that there’s more to life than living for oneself and one’s own happiness or comfort. But we lack a positive vision for the purpose of individual liberty.

Thomas Aquinas, a medieval Catholic theologian, gave us the gorgeous and helpful phrase “arduous good.”

. . . . Consumer capitalism is not going to teach us about how to pursue arduous goods, nor is technological progress, nor is either American political party. Theoretically, religious communities are places that train us toward ends other than individual autonomy. They point us to something bigger and higher than ourselves, calling us to love God and our neighbors. However, this is unfortunately not always the case. Many religious communities have lost their ability to articulate an alternative to the sovereignty of personal choice and individual autonomy.

. . . But as a culture, we desperately need religious communities that do not parrot the predictable ethical arguments of the right or the left. We need a rooted and robust call to love our neighbors, our families and the marginalized, the needy, the weak and the afflicted among us.

But the arguments she makes apply to secular humanism even more than to Christianity. After all, it is conservative Christians who “parrot the predictable ethical arguments of the Right” against abortion because it’s seen as murder, usually because the fetus is ensouled.  Secular humanists have a diversity of views on abortion, and often considered ones. They don’t need the buttressing of ancient scripture and authority to arrive at a position.

As for “a rooted and robust call to love our neighbors, our families, and the marginalized, the needy, the weak, and the afflicted among us,” what about that comes from religion? Was it Christianity that gave us income taxes, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the other institutionalized forms of our sacrifices for those needier than we?  And wasn’t it Jesus who said this (Luke 14:25-27)?:

25 Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them, 26 “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life! 27 Whoever will not carry the cross that is given to them when they follow me cannot be my follower.

But let me admit that yes, studies have shown that Christians give more to charity than do nonbelievers. What I don’t know is whether how much of Christian charity goes to tithes or Christian organizations.  And countering that, let me say once again that the countries of Northern Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, are largely atheistic societies whose members give much more per capita to help their societies than do Americans. That’s one reason taxes are so high, and why state does what private organizations must take over in America.

No, what we don’t need is more love of God to spur us on to be more socially conscious. We need governments like those of Denmark and Sweden.

I wonder how longer the NYT will allow Warren to continue spoon-feeding us pabulum. At least she has a bit of a point in this week’s column. But surely there are pastors or theologians out there who can give us more food for thought, even if they’re victims of the God Delusion.

The ACLU alters an RBG quote to avoid “transphobic” implications

September 22, 2021 • 9:30 am

It’s a sad day when the American Civil Liberties Union has to alter a quote by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (one of our mutual heroes) to placate the potentially offended. Here’s one of their recent tweets:

Here’s the original quote from Ginsburg:

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There are six changes, five in brackets, getting rid of “woman” and “her” (substituting “persons” and “people” for “woman” and “they” or “their” for three “hers”).  The missing part of the quote, which is “It is a decision she must make for herself”, could have been altered to “It is a decision they must make for themselves,” but that would add two more sets of brackets and make the whole quotation look really weird.

The explanation is simple and obvious; they are removing RBG’s reference to women having babies since the ACLU, whose mission now includes a substantial amount of transgender activism, is onboard with the idea that transmen, who are now given the pronouns “he” and “men”, can have babies. And indeed, transmen have given birth.

I have no quarrel with asserting that transsexual men can have offspring while using male pronouns.  What bothers me is the alteration of RBG’s quotation, which strikes me as disingenuous, as it alters what somebody actually said with the purpose of conforming to an ideology that didn’t exist during most of RBG’s life. Would it cause harm if people were to read the actual quote?  Would the quote really be considered transphobic given that RBG was not a transphobe?

I doubt it; we know that usage has changed in the past decade. And if we can go ahead and alter quotes any way we want so they are seen as less offensive and less “harmful”, well, we’re in trouble.

As I’ve said for a while, the ACLU is circling the drain. If they were offended by the original quote, they should have either used it as it was spoken, or not used it at all.

To be fair, I’ll link you to a defense of this kind of usage (which to me still doesn’t justify altering RBG’s quote), in this article by Emma Green in the Atlantic.

Supreme Court agrees to decide major abortion case: not good news for Roe v. Wade

May 17, 2021 • 10:15 am

This article from the NYT, and several others, is not good news for pro-choice people or supporters of Roe v. Wade, of which I’m one.  Click on the screenshot:

The decision to take up the Mississippi abortion restrictions was made by the Supreme Court this morning.

Determined to overturn Roe v. Wade, and, indeed, in some cases to prohibit abortion nearly completely, a number of states passed palpably unconstitutional laws designed to get wend their way to the Supreme Court, hoping that the new conservative court would roll back the federal abortion law. One of those states was Mississippi. As the NYT reports:

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19- 1392, concerns a law enacted by the Republican-dominated Mississippi legislature that banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. The statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.”

Lower courts said the law was plainly unconstitutional under Roe, which forbids states from banning abortions before fetal viability — the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or around 23 or 24 weeks.

Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic sued, saying the law ran afoul of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe’s core holding.

Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Federal District Court in Jackson, Miss., blocked the law in 2018, saying the legal issue was straightforward and questioning the state lawmakers’ motives.

Note that Mississippi has just ONE abortion clinic, but was successful in getting the Mississippi law blocked. As NBC News reports, the judge who blocked the law said that the state: “”chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to enforce a decades-long campaign, fueled by interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade.”  I suppose there’s no law against passing an unconstitutional law, for that’s how cases get re-adjudicated.  But there was nothing mandating readjudication save the composition of the Supreme Court.

That the Supremes decided to take up the appeal by Mississippi is not a good sign, for had they turned it back, the law would have remained blocked. Can you imagine that the new court would uphold Roe v. Wade? I can’t.

In 1973 Roe v. Wade was decided by a 7-2 vote, with White and Rehnquist dissenting. Now, however, conservatives have a 6-3 majority, and I’m feeling a bit queasy. The NYT says that the Supremes will hear arguments in the next term, which begins in October, and render a decision by mid 2022.

Does this mean that when science improves to the point when a fetus can remain viable outside the womb from day 1, with gestation provided in vitro, then abortion will become completely illegal except, perhaps, in cases of incest, rape, or severe deformities incompatible with life? For one thing is for sure: someday science will get to that point.

 

h/t: Ken

Arkansas going bonkers: passes illegal abortion ban, proposes illegal bill to teach creationism

March 12, 2021 • 9:30 am

I don’t know what’s going on in Arkansas, but they’ve signed one illegal abortion bill into law this week, and the legislature will consider a bill to teach straight creationism (no, not Intelligent Design [ID] and not “scientific creationism) in public schools. These bills are clearly meant to test Roe v. Wade —and the validity of teaching the Bible as science—in the new, extra-conservative Supreme Court.

As you may recall, Roe v. Wade started in Texas, where Norma McCorvey (“Roe”) brought suit against the state for its law prohibiting all abortions except those to save the mother’s life. The case was appealed up to the Supreme Court, where a 7-judge majority ruled that abortion could not be completely prohibited, striking down the Texas law. (McCorvey gave birth before the Supreme Court ruled, and put the baby up for adoption.)

You may also remember that the legality of abortion depended on the trimester. As Wikipedia notes:

The Court settled on the three trimesters of pregnancy as the framework to resolve the problem. During the first trimester, when it was believed that the procedure was safer than childbirth, the Court ruled that the government could place no restriction on a woman’s ability to choose to abort a pregnancy other than minimal medical safeguards such as requiring a licensed physician to perform the procedure. From the second trimester on, the Court ruled that evidence of increasing risks to the mother’s health gave the state a compelling interest, and that it could enact medical regulations on the procedure so long as they were reasonable and “narrowly tailored” to protecting mothers’ health. Since the beginning of the third trimester was normally considered to be the point at which a fetus became viable under the level of medical science available in the early 1970s, the Court ruled that during the third trimester the state had a compelling interest in protecting prenatal life, and could legally prohibit all abortions except where necessary to protect the mother’s life or health.

Well, Arkansas has passed a law identical to the Texas law that was declared unconstitutional. The governor signed it on Tuesday. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Click on the screenshot to read the CNN report.

An excerpt:

Arkansas on Tuesday became the first state in 2021 to enact a near-total abortion ban — a bold step by abortion opponents seeking to renew challenges to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationally.

The court, which now leans conservative, has shown it is open to considering abortion restrictions, a perceived opportunity that many anti-abortion advocates have pushed lawmakers to pursue.

The Arkansas bill, SB6, bans providers from performing abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency,” and makes no exceptions for instances of rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Those found to violate the law could face a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

“I will sign SB6 because of overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said in a statement. “SB6 is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law.”

The abortion law is slated to go into effect 91 days after the end of the Arkansas legislative session, which is currently set for May 3, according to Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the Senate bill.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood plan to challenge the law. Further, Supreme Court already has ample material if it wanted to overrule Roe v. Wade. Perhaps it has no appetite to do so. Can a lawyer weigh in here?

Of the 11 so-called gestational bans — which bar abortions past a certain point in pregnancy — passed since the start of 2019, none have gone into effect after most of them have been blocked by judges. Those include a similar near-total abortion ban passed in Alabama in 2019 and an 18-week bill passed by Arkansas in 2019.

“The Supreme Court has about 20 bills in front of them that they could take up if they wanted to,” said Gloria Pedro, regional manager of public policy and organizing for Arkansas and Oklahoma at Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, the group’s advocacy arm. “So writing a bill that’s the equivalent of a demand letter to SCOTUS, it’s just impractical and a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.”

About the rape and incest inclusion, Senator Jason Rapert, sponsor of the bill, said this: “”How could we look at any human baby and say that they are not worthy of life simply because their birth was a result of a violent act.”

They are not clearly thinking about the mother, who, besides being traumatized by a rape or incestuous act, has to carry its fetal result for nine months.

***************

Now about their regressive creationism. . .

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas has a good article on the history of teaching evolution (or not teaching it) in that state. It turns out that the U.S. government’s legal stand on teaching creationism was largely forged by cases in that state.

The Supreme Court case of Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) began when a high-school biology teacher, Susan Epperson, sued for the right to teach evolution in her biology class. That was illegal since Arkansas had a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution (this was in 1968!). The state Supreme Court upheld the law, but the Big Supreme Court overturned it on First Amendment grounds. As the encyclopedia notes, “In issuing the majority opinion, Justice Abe Fortas noted ‘that the First Amendment does not permit the State to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma’.”

That brought an end to rules outlawing the teaching of evolution. In another famous it violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment because “creation science” was not science but religion. I love to quote judge Overton’s final paragraph of that decision:

The application and content of First Amendment principles are not determined by public opinion polls or by a majority vote. Whether the proponents of Act 590 constitute the majority or the minority is quite irrelevant under a constitutional system of government. No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of government, of which the public schools are the most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others.

At that time, “scientific creationism” was the confected way to try sneaking religion into the classroom. Later Intelligent Design became an even sneakier way, for it didn’t mention God, only a “designer.” However, Judge John E. Jones III, presiding in a federal district court in Pennsylvania, saw through this ruse, striking down the Dover Area School District’s requirement that ID be taught alongside true evolution. Again, the decision was based on First Amendment grounds, since Jones deemed ID “not science”, but a religious view.

With that long introduction, here’s the very short bill filed yesterday in the Arkansas legislature. It drops the charade of ID and “scientific creationism” and says that a teach may teach creationism if they want:

Under present federal law, this bill is unconstitutional, as it allows teachers to teach a religious view in public school classrooms. It will be struck down, for I can’t imagine that the Supreme Court, conservative though it is, allowing the teaching of Biblical creationism, much less any religious doctrine, in a public school. If the judges somehow see creationism, ID, or “scientific creationism” as “science” worthy to be taught alongside evolution, they are truly ignorant, nay, stupid. 

h/t: Guy

Thanks to an American Catholic bishop, the pandemic gets a boost

November 20, 2020 • 9:00 am

I was going to say “the Catholic Church gives the pandemic a shot in the arm,” but that would have been confusing. Reader Bill sent me this link to the Los Angeles Times about a faith-soaked Catholic bishop (click on screenshot) who’s bad-mouthing coronavirus vaccines because they’re supposedly made using embryonic tissue from aborted fetuses or from surplus embryos used during in vitro fertilization (IVF) that are eventually discarded.

An excerpt:

Citing ethical concerns about the use of fetal cells in vaccine development, Bishop Joseph Brennan of the Diocese of Fresno is urging Catholics not to “jump on the COVID-19 vaccine bandwagon.”

In a video shared by the diocese this week, Brennan said that some of the researchers racing to produce a coronavirus vaccine have made use of cells derived from an aborted fetus, and perhaps other “morally objectionable” materials.

“I try to maintain a joyful spirit, so I don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade,” Brennan said. “But I’m going to rain on a parade today: the vaccine parade.”

In his message, Brennan said the use of fetal cells at any stage of a vaccine’s development means Catholics cannot avail themselves of its scientific results.

“I won’t be able to take a vaccine, brothers and sisters, and I encourage you not to, if it was developed with material from stem cells that were derived from a baby that was aborted, or material that was cast off from artificial insemination of a human embryo,” he said. “That’s morally unacceptable for us.”

. . . Brennan said he is not opposed to vaccines in general, and noted that he has received vaccines for the flu and pneumonia, but said he is specifically opposed to vaccines derived from babies “whose lives were taken.”

This is one example of the hypocrisy of Catholicism. Even if vaccines were made using fetal or embryonic tissue, that tissue would eventually be discarded. Why not use it to save lives? Further, even if you think that discarding unused IVF embryos, or aborting fetuses, is “murder,” there is no evidence that women will undergo these procedures in order to help create vaccines.  Bishop Brennan has a bizarre kind of calculus in which tissue already available cannot be used to save other lives. Note that he is in general expressing the position of the Catholic church, though I don’t think the Pope has yet weighed in on this.

But are the vaccines really made using this kind of tissue? Nope—not one mentioned by Brennan during his video homily:

He cited the Pfizer vaccine by name, which — along with another vaccine from Moderna — has been roundly celebrated as a breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus.

Brennan did not explain why he singled out Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for criticism. There is no indication that it was developed using either fetal cells or human embryonic stem cells.

“Not a single stage has had it,” Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts said Thursday.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine candidates are made with a snippet of the coronavirus’ genetic code, and both are estimated to be roughly 95% effective.

You think the good bishop would have done his homework, for how many Catholics that heard his homily are going to check for themselves?

It is true that some vaccines are made using fetal tissue:

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, an antiabortion organization, has flagged five COVID-19 vaccine candidates that were developed with the help of fetal cells. One of them, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, is in late-stage testing. So is another developed by Johnson & Johnson.

If Catholics are worried about burning in hell if they take a vaccine developed this way, all they have to do is take the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. But I repeat: even if you equate abortion or unused IVF embryos as “murder”, what is the moral objection to using that tissue to save further lives? It’s not as if women get IVF and abortions for the purpose of creating vaccines, or get paid to do so. Those abortions or IVF procedures would take place with or without a vaccine being developed.

All I can say is that it’s a good thing that at least some vaccines are being developed without use of fetal or embryonic material, because otherwise pious Catholics wouldn’t be able to get vaccinated, and more people would die in the name of a senseless “morality”.

Poland bans more legal abortions, making the country nearly abortion-free

October 26, 2020 • 9:00 am

When Poland was under the Communists, and until 1993, abortions of all types were legal up to three months into pregnancy. Then the Catholic country banned all abortions with just four exceptions: pregnancies resulting from rape, ditto for incest, pregnancies that endangered the mother’s life, and when the fetus was abnormal.  Yet even these legal abortions were nearly impossible to get, as doctors had (and still have) the right to refuse to do legal abortions.  The result was that the country had very few legal abortions (1,100 in 2019), and almost all of those (1,074 according to the NYT article below) were for fetal abnormalities.

Most Polish women, stymied by the system and the difficulty of getting abortions, went to other EU countries—to places like Czechoslovakia. Estimates are that about 100,000 of these abortions, many paid for by the women themselves or by NGOs defending women, were performed yearly.

Now,  however, the 98% of legal abortions in Poland performed because of deformed fetuses are about to be banned as well, making abortion effectively unavailable in that country. The NYT and BBC articles below (click on screenshots) tell the tale.

Although polls show that most Poles want to return the the three-months legal abortion system, the right-wing PiS (“Law and Justice Party”), which controls the government and much of the judiciary, along with nudges from the influential Catholic Church, has seen to it that the Constitutional Court declared abortions because of deformed fetuses illegal. (Poland has both a Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court, and the latter can declare laws unconstitutional without needing to rule on a court case.)

Here’s the basis for the decision, which of course smacks heavily of Catholic doctrine:

In the ruling, the tribunal’s president, Julia Przylebska, said that allowing abortions in cases of fetal abnormality legalized “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity.”

Because the Polish Constitution guarantees a right to life, she added, terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus amounted to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination.”

In response, thousands of Polish citizens, many of them women, took to the streets, and, in an unprecedented act of near-blasphemy, even interrupted Catholic masses with their protests.

Now the law hasn’t yet taken effect, as it has to first be published in official government notices. That’s normally done almost instantly, but the government seems to have been taken aback by the protests and there’s been no publication yet. (Only once before was a constitutional decision not published and therefore didn’t become law.) Smart betting, however, is on the decision being published very soon. With the restrictions and the right of doctors to refuse to do the procedure, we’ll now see only a few dozen legal abortions per year in Poland.

This is what happens when a right-wing and repressive government (backed largely by the church) gets legal control of women’s reproduction. Sound familiar? Americans may be in for a similar situation if state after state tightens its abortion restrictions and the new Barrett court begins ruling on reproductive rights.

Poland is clearly contravening the will of the people on this issue. But in Poland, the will of the people means nothing when it’s contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic church.

Here’s a photo of anti-government demonstrations about abortions in 2016; the signs are very clever:

Source.

h/t: Malgorzata