Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Push Likely for Restrictions Over Abortions

DENVER, April 19 — Both sides of the abortion debate expect a new push for restrictions as state lawmakers around the country digest the implications of the Supreme Court decision Wednesday upholding a federal ban on a type of abortion.

But such legislation could face headwinds in states where voters in the last election sent large numbers of Democrats — many of them abortion rights advocates — into office for the first time.

Seventeen houses or senates in the states shifted position on abortion after the November elections — 15 toward more abortion rights and 2 toward greater restrictions — according to an analysis by Naral Pro-Choice America. The group says six new governors supporting abortion rights were elected, compared with one who had voiced strong views against abortion.

“Something this drastic is going to energize both sides,” said Katherine Grainger, the director of the state program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights legal advocacy group based in New York. The organization represented some of the doctors involved in the Supreme Court case decided Wednesday.

The reasoning of both the court’s majority opinion upholding the restrictions and the dissent gave encouragement to opponents of abortion. The ruling, they said, will bolster their argument that the issues raised by abortion — among them defining fully informed consent by women who want to end pregnancies and the question of when a fetus feels pain — are legitimate topics for state legislation.

“The case does not give us a new issue, it reinforces the issue and gives us an opportunity to use it,” said Mary S. Balch, the director of for state legislation at the National Right to Life Committee.

Ms. Balch and other legislative experts said that North Dakota, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Alabama, where legislators are still meeting and anti-abortion legislation is on the table, were probably the places to watch for now.

Only hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling, a lawmaker in Alabama introduced a measure that would ban almost all abortions in the state. Most states have adjourned their legislatures for the year or passed the deadline for introducing new bills.

Some scholars of the abortion debate say that all the tilting and jousting of politics and the technical legal issues raised by the Supreme Court in upholding, by a 5-to-4 vote, the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act are beside the point.

What the court really did, said Anne Hendershott, a professor of sociology at the University of San Diego, was reframe the debate about how abortion should be discussed.

The court did not talk about big concepts and issues like privacy, but about the small, gripping details of how abortion works, said Professor Hendershott, author of “The Politics of Abortion” (Encounter, 2006).

Focusing on such details, she said, is how so-called “incrementalists” are trying to chip away at the availability of abortion. These opponents try to make women, doctors and other health professionals talk more, in some cases a lot more, about the actual consequences and mechanics of abortion.

With the court’s ruling and the new fuel it gives to the strategy of encouraging those discussions, Professor Hendershott said, the incrementalists have won the debate — if not over abortion, then at least over how to fight it.

“This case changes the conversation,” she said. “The battle between the incrementalists and those who wanted a constitutional amendment was won by the incrementalists.”

Some lawmakers who are backing anti-abortion bills in their states said the ruling helped them by declaring that some specific restrictions are constitutional. The Supreme Court has never before upheld a ban on a specific kind of abortion.

The emphasis in the court’s ruling was also much less on the health or well-being of the pregnant woman, but on the risks and consequences of an abortion to her and her fetus. This makes discussion of an abortion’s potentially negative consequences easier, the lawmakers said.

“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” said James Mills, a Republican state representative from Gainesville, Ga. Mr. Mills is the chief sponsor of a bill in the Legislature that would require doctors to offer patients seeking abortions the choice of viewing an ultrasound image of the fetus.

In South Carolina, lawmakers are also debating a law involving ultrasound. One approach would have required a woman to view the ultrasound image of her fetus before the abortion could be performed. The other says the option must be offered to the woman by her doctor.

State Senator Kevin Bryant, a Republican from Anderson and a sponsor of one of the bills, said abortions of the sort addressed by the Supreme Court were already illegal in South Carolina. But Mr. Bryant said the ruling could provide some momentum to other restrictions.

“We may also look down the road and end up seeing some other procedures that should be restricted too,” he said. “We don’t want to do too much at one time.”

Legislators in North Dakota are looking at legislation that would immediately ban abortion statewide if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion legal, is overturned.

The Mississippi Legislature passed just such a bill earlier this year, banning nearly all abortions if the ruling is overturned. The law was signed Thursday by Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican.

But some winds are blowing the other way.

In Oklahoma, the Democratic governor, Brad Henry, vetoed legislation Wednesday that would ban state facilities and workers from performing abortions except to save the life of the pregnant woman. Mr. Henry, who has supported some restrictions on abortion in the past, said the bill went too far. Supporters of the bill, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses, hope to override the veto.

Last month, Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have created a new category of homicide if a pregnant woman was murdered and her unborn fetus died. Mr. Freudenthal said in his veto message that he thought the bill was probably unconstitutional.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York, a Democrat, told an abortion rights group Thursday that he would fight to keep abortion legal in his state.

Some opponents of abortion said that, until the Supreme Court’s ruling, this had not been a particularly good year for their cause.

In part this may have been because of the changed composition in state legislatures and in part because of what many politicians saw as a backlash when South Dakota tried to ban most abortions last year. The Legislature passed a sweeping ban, only to see the public repeal it in a statewide referendum.

“This particular legislative session was a tough year for us,” said Ms. Balch of the National Right to Life Committee. “We had some victories, but we would have liked more.”

She said lawmakers in South Dakota seemed to be taking a year off after last year’s defeat. Virginia, often a hotbed of anti-abortion discussion, has been quiet too, she said.

Dan Frosch contributed reporting from Denver.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Supreme Court OKs Abortion Procedure Ban

Apr 18, 3:48 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court's conservative majority handed anti-abortion forces a major victory Wednesday in a decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure and set the stage for further restrictions. For the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, the justices upheld a nationwide ban on a specific abortion method, labeled partial-birth abortion by its opponents. The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. The law is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman's health, Kennedy said. "The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice," he wrote in the majority opinion. Kennedy's opinion, joined by Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, was a long-awaited resounding win that abortion opponents expected from the more conservative bench. The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide. Reacting to the ruling, Bush said that it affirms the progress his administration has made to defend the "sanctity of life."
"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion," he said. "Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America."
It was the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how - not whether - to perform an abortion. Abortion rights groups as well as the leading association of obstetricians and gynecologists have said the procedure sometimes is the safest for a woman. They also said that such a ruling could threaten most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, although Kennedy said alternate, more widely used procedures remain legal. The outcome is likely to spur efforts at the state level to place more restrictions on abortions.
"I applaud the Court for its ruling today, and my hope is that it sets the stage for further progress in the fight to ensure our nation's laws respect the sanctity of unborn human life," said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, Republican leader in the House of Representatives.
Said Eve Gartner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America: "This ruling flies in the face of 30 years of Supreme Court precedent and the best interest of women's health and safety. ... This ruling tells women that politicians, not doctors, will make their health care decisions for them." She had argued that point before the justices. More than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, according to recent statistics. Nearly 90 percent of those occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not affected by Wednesday's ruling. The Guttmacher Institute says 2,200 dilation and extraction procedures - the medical term most often used by doctors - were performed in 2000, the latest figures available. Six federal courts have said the law that was in focus Wednesday is an impermissible restriction on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. The law bans a method of ending a pregnancy, rather than limiting when an abortion can be performed. "Today's decision is alarming," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent. She said the ruling "refuses to take ... seriously" previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion. Ginsburg said the latest decision "tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists." Ginsburg said that for the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, "the court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health." She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. The procedure at issue involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion. Abortion opponents say the law will not reduce the number of abortions performed because an alternate method - dismembering the fetus in the uterus - is available and, indeed, much more common. In 2000, the court with key differences in its membership struck down a state ban on partial-birth abortions. Writing for a 5-4 majority at that time, Justice Breyer said the law imposed an undue burden on a woman's right to make an abortion decision in part because it lacked a health exception. The Republican-controlled Congress responded in 2003 by passing a federal law that asserted the procedure is gruesome, inhumane and never medically necessary to preserve a woman's health. That statement was designed to overcome the health exception to restrictions that the court has demanded in abortion cases. But federal judges in California, Nebraska and New York said the law was unconstitutional, and three appellate courts agreed. The Supreme Court accepted appeals from California and Nebraska, setting up Wednesday's ruling. Kennedy's dissent in 2000 was so strong that few court watchers expected him to take a different view of the current case. Kennedy acknowledged continuing disagreement about the procedure within the medical community. In the past, courts have cited that uncertainty as a reason to allow the disputed procedure. "The medical uncertainty over whether the Act's prohibition creates significant health risks provides a sufficient basis to conclude ... that the Act does not impose an undue burden," Kennedy said Wednesday. While the court upheld the law against a broad attack on its constitutionality, Kennedy said the court could entertain a challenge in which a doctor found it necessary to perform the banned procedure on a patient suffering certain medical complications. The law allows the procedure to be performed when a woman's life is in jeopardy. The cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More young doctors oppose abortions on ethical ground
London, Tuesday 17.04.07

The NHS abortion service is heading for a crisis because increasing numbers of doctors refuse to carry out terminations, it was claimed. There has been a big rise in young medics with 'conscientious objections' to abortion. The increase has been revealed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It says there is evidence of a 'slow but growing problem' of young doctors opting out of abortion training on moral grounds. Some senior doctors have blamed declining interest on the lack of 'glamour' involved in the work. This has been dubbed 'dinner party syndrome' where doctors don't want to admit to their friends that they do abortions. In addition, changes to training schedules and reductions in working hours mean trainee doctors are opting out of a branch of specialist work that may not enhance their career prospects. RCOG spokesman Kate Guthrie, who is head of abortion services in Hull, said: "You get no thanks for performing abortions, you get spat on. Who admits to friends at a dinner party that they are an abortionist? It is not a sexy area - it is a bog standard area of women's care. "There is an increasing number of young doctors who are not participating in the training. The college and the Department of Health are really worried." She said abortion care must become part of core training in a new curriculum being introduced in August, although it should not be compulsory. The college was not able to produce any figures to back up its claims, however. But the situation has prompted abortion groups to call for a change in the law which would allow nurses to carry out early surgical and medical abortions - procedures which are technically simple. A spokesman for Marie Stopes, Britain's biggest private provider of abortions, said this would dramatically increase provision. Spokesman Tony Kerridge said: "Ninety per cent of terminations take place before 12 weeks when they are simple, low-tech procedures. "It's not glamorous work for doctors which may partly explain the increasing difficulty in recruitment over the last five or six years, and younger people no longer understand or recall the time when abortion was illegal. "Our research published in The Lancet shows nurses and paramedics in Vietnam and South Africa do the work extremely successfully, but they are not allowed to here. This must change." Marie Stopes currently carries out one in three British abortions, with two-thirds funded by NHS contracts. Mr Kerridge said surveys show one in five GPs oppose abortiontion but most do not let it stand in the way of caring for their patients. Julia Millington of the ProLife Alliance, agreed that doctors are turning away from the work on moral grounds. She said: "We have been hearing for some time now that young doctors, in particular, do not want to work in this field. Those choosing to go into medicine presumably do so because they want to cure sickness and disease not end the lives of innocent human beings. "Public and Parliamentary opinion on the abortion issue has shifted in recent years and this is further evidence that the law must be reviewed." But the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said it was not aware of any documented rise in conscientious objections where a doctor refuses to work in abortion or IVF services on the grounds of moral conviction. Chief executive Ann Furedi said "The current crop of medical students have not themselves seen women dying slowly and painfully after self -induced and unsafe aborneurosurgeryin the UK- but if they went to the many countries overseas where abortion is still illegal or only available to rich people, they would see this. "Abortion is an absolutely essential, life-saving part of medical care - it may not be the most glamorous medical speciality on the face of it, compared to stem cell research or - but it is seen as heroic work by the women that it helps." Dr Kate Paterson, a consultant obstetrician working in abortion care, said: "There are an awful lot of doctors already working helping women to get pregnant in the NHS and in the private IVF sector. "There are a hell of a lot less who want to help women when they are pregnant and can't cope. "There is a desperate need for this kind of work and women can be in really extreme situations." A Department of Health spokesman said "We are aware that a minority of doctors choose to opt out from performing abortions, as they are legally entitled to do. "However, this is not preventing women from accessing abortion services. The statistics show that the number of abortions being performed remains stable year on year and that more abortions are being performed earlier." She said the Department of Health would be discussing the issue of training with the college.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Botched procedure shuts down abortion business

One of the closures was the Summit Medical Center in Birmingham, shut down after a nurse was accused of illegally giving out a fatal abortion drug

State investigators looking into woman's allegations of negligence

Another abortion business has been closed down, this one while an investigation is conducted into the treatment of a woman who suffered two strokes, a collapsed lung and neurological damage as a result of her abortion, officials say.

The woman also has filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Medical Associates of New Jersey and the two abortionists who treated her, alleging "negligent, careless and reckless care."

It brings to 18 the number of abortion businesses closed over the past year because of investigations of deaths or injury, as well as investigations into unlicensed and other inappropriate activity.

The newest closure happened over just the last few days – after Rasheedah Dinkins went to Metropolitan Medical Associates on Jan. 27 for what she thought would be a routine abortion.

However, a report from Operation Rescue, one of the nation's front-line pro-life organizations, said after Dinkins returned home that day, she collapsed.

"Family members summoned an ambulance to transport her to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center where she slipped into a coma lasting four weeks. When she awoke, Rasheedah learned that she had suffered massive blood loss, two strokes, a collapsed lung, neurological damage, and the removal of her uterus. She finally regained her ability to speak on Tuesday," the report said.

She remains hospitalized in critical care, officials said.

The Metropolitan Medical Center was closed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services for the investigation after a hospital worker reported to authorities the botched abortion, officials said.

The business also had been ordered closed in 1993 after a 20-year-old college student died following a perforated uterus during an abortion there.

In the new case, the woman also has sued Metropolitan Associates, which is affiliated with the National Abortion Federation, and abortionists Keith Gresham and Nicholas Kotopoulos, the report said.

"Rasheedah showed remarkable courage in first being willing to admit that she should not have had the abortion, and second in her willingness to publicly discuss what happened to her," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "We pray her lawsuit succeeds in helping to permanently close this high-volume child-killing center."

He said, however, the situation is "not unique."

"We urge other women who have been injured [at] this and any other abortion mill to come forward and report their stories to their local authorities," Newman said. "The abortion industry is a predatory one, and the so-called standards that groups like the NAF impose on themselves are a joke.

"As long as women remain silent, they will continue to subject women to shoddy, dangerous conditions and substandard care. Now is the time to speak out to prevent other women from making the same tragic decision," Newman said.

As WND has reported, the pursuit of legal action against various abortion businesses is being encouraged by pro-life concerns, because of the potential for damage to the industry.

The issue is that the federal laws require abortion businesses to follow all state laws in order to obtain the millions of dollars a year taxpayers provide to the industry. If they are documented as having failed, not only could future subsidies be endangered, but past subsidies might have to be repaid.

Mark Crutcher, the chief of Life Dynamics, has told WND that with the industry's "heavy reliance" on tax subsidies, "losing that money would be nothing less than a financial catastrophe."

"Needless to say that could literally cripple the entire abortion industry," he concluded.

The possible offenses include negligent care, not filing the proper reports or other offenses.

"If you're not following state law, you're not entitled to Title X funds," Newman agreed. "As soon as you defund abortion clinics, they dry up and blow away."

In a separate simultaneous report, Jim Sedlak of the American Life League noted that Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion providing in the country, also has seen significant declines in the number of its clinics.

"In our study, we found the organization has 817 'health' clinics. The number of 'health' clinics is the lowest it has been since 1987," he said. "Americans are rejecting Planned Parenthood and its agenda…"

He said corporation's number of outlets in 1987 was 816, and it rose to 938 in 1995, when the company announced a campaign to have 2,000 clinics in 2000. Since then, however, it has been downhill, with only 875 clinics in 2000 and 825 in 2005.

Operation Rescue has been active on several pro-life fronts, including the purchase and shutdown of an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kan. It also has been on the leading edge of public concern over the allegedly inappropriate activities at another Wichita clinic, run by abortion George Tiller, who specializes in late-term procedures.

He was charged by the Kansas attorney general with 30 criminal counts in December, but the charges later were dropped under suspicious circumstances.

The actual closures include:

  • Aradia Women's Health Center of Seattle, which had operated for 34 years, announced it was closing because of finances. A statement from an executive said its clients are "too poor."
  • Springfield Health Care Center in Springfield, Mo., was closed down by regulators.
  • Summit Women's Health Organization in Milwaukee, Wis., shut down with no announcement, and no explanation.
  • Summit Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., was closed down this year when a nurse was accused of illegally prescribing abortion drugs to a mother who was eight months pregnant. The nurse later was charged with three counts. The corporation declared bankruptcy.
  • Central Women's Services, an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kan., closed when Operation Rescue itself bought the building and evicted the tenant abortion clinic.
  • Falls Church Healthcare Center in Falls Church, Va., lost its lease and locked its doors.
  • Women's Services PC, a clinic in Omaha, Neb., also was closed because the land was purchased from underneath the business and the owners couldn't find another facility to rent.
  • A Gynecologists Diagnostic Center, a business in Hialeah, Fla., was closed by an investigation into allegations a baby was born alive, then killed and placed on the roof of the building to avoid detection by police.
  • Orlando Women's Center, in Orlando, Fla., was owned by James Pendergraft and was shut down when the abortionist was found to be providing illegal late-term abortions and dispensing drugs without a license.
  • EPOC Clinic, another operation in Orlando owned by Pendergraft, was closed for "flagrant" violations of state law.
  • In Daytona Beach, Fla., the Family Planning Center abortion business was closed down by abortionist Randall Whitney, who said the state had no right to regulate his business and he wouldn't comply with state rules.
  • The Center for Women's Health in Cleveland, Ohio, was shut down by regulators after they discovered more than a dozen violations of the law.
  • In Aurora, Illinois, sheriff's deputies hauled away "medical equipment" and office supplies as a clinic run by abortionist Louis S. Myers was closed down on orders from the landlord, who evicted the business. The property owner, who ran the abortion business for years himself before retiring, said the new business operator simply disappeared.
  • Reproductive Health Services, a business in Montgomery, Ala., was closed when authorities found the abortionist didn't have hospital privileges, in violation of state laws. It later reopened on a provisional license.
  • Three other clinics owned by Pendergraft were closed, but reopened later.

Several other abortionists not affiliated with a particular clinic also have lost their licenses over regulatory violations.