11.30.2005

now v. scheidler

Today the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in the NOW v. Scheidler case. From the National Organization of Women's website:
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 10 a.m., Scheidler et al. v. National Organization for Women et al. and Operation Rescue et al. v. National Organization for Women et al. will be argued before the Supreme Court. These cases relate to stopping illegal violence directed against women's health clinics, abortion providers and their patients. NOW initiated this case nearly 20 years ago in an effort to stop anti-abortion extremists from continuing to plan and organize violence at women's health clinics. The self-described "pro-life Mafia" planned to end abortion by closing every clinic that provided abortion services. Over the past 19 years, the violence has included invasions, violent blockades, arson, chemical attacks and bombings of women's health care clinics, assaults on patients, death threats and shootings of health care workers and administrators, including the murder of eight abortion providers.
I was part of the army of New Yorkers who fought Operation Rescue when they invaded our city in 1992. It was my first civil disobedience, aimed at keeping women's health clinics open and safe. It was exhilarating, and - in New York - successful.

Scheidler is the first of several cases involving abortion that will soon be heard by the Roberts court. It doesn't look good, but I'm always willing to be surprised.

More info, including the briefs filed by NOW and other groups, found here.

20 comments:

James said...

We had similar adventures up here with Henry Morgenthaler, though nowhere near as violent as things get in the US.

L-girl said...

And the US violence is after the passage of Roe. These people are preventing women from exercising their legal rights.

Ah, those life-loving terrorists, they'll stop at nothing to save a blob of cells...

Lone Primate said...

I've never personally been a big fan of abortion, but I'm old enough to understand how the world works, whether I like it or not. It's a necessary evil, I would agree. Just how necessary was brought to my attention recently while listening to my friend's copy of Freakonomics.

There was an interesting downturn in crimestats in the US in the mid-90s. Gun control advocates put that down to the Brady Bill and things like that. NRA types instead pointed to Florida's opposite tack in allowing people to carry concealed weapons. Others argued it was the increase in police spending, or new and better methods of policing.

The authors of Freakonomics pointed out another interesting statistic. Crime rates were on the rise in the US while all this was going on. In some places, with frightening speed. Then, early in the 90s, they stablized and then, to everyone's wonder, began to drop. It escaped the notice of most, but not these authors, that Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973. Suddenly, abortion was legal in the US. The women statistically most likely to have abortions are economically disadvantaged single mothers. The people most likely to wind up engaging in criminal activities, interestingly enough, turn out to be the male children of... economically disadvantaged single mothers. So abortion rates rose in the 1970s and 1980s... then, just as the just at the sons who were never born would have been reaching their teens and early 20s and embarking on criminal careers... the crime rate began to drop... particularly the homicide rate.

Those who would turn the clock back, take note. Two kinds of evil. Today, it seems, we have the lesser of.

L-girl said...

I'm a huge Freakonomics fan. Great stuff.

But one doesn't have to be a fan of abortion: just of equality. Without reproductive freedom, there can be no true equality for women. Abortion and access to contraception are the sine qua non of women's freedom.

Lone Primate said...

But one doesn't have to be a fan of abortion: just of equality. Without reproductive freedom, there can be no true equality for women.

Or men. But the courts haven't seen fit to grant us anything like reciprocal rights. Obviously a man can't compel a woman to either bear or abort his child. But we don't have anything like the same, legally-binding right to decide if an unplanned pregnancy is convenient for our plans, our lives, our finances. It seems to me that in reproductive rights and freedoms are pretty much a one-way street: today it's the men who are hostage to the decisions of others. I believe there needs to be some balance.

L-girl said...

It seems to me that in reproductive rights and freedoms are pretty much a one-way street: today it's the men who are hostage to the decisions of others. I believe there needs to be some balance.

What would balance look like? If you don't believe a man should be able to compel a woman to either bear a child or terminate a pregnancy...?

Spousal consent is a stalwart of the anti-choice movement in the US. The courts have always declared it unconstitutional - no state has spousal consent laws - but they're always trying.

I've always believed a man should have no say in reproductive decisions unless the woman gives him the right (such as a couple deciding together), because it's still someone else deciding, as opposed to the woman deciding.

But I've never thought about a balanced take - I've only seen it either/or. I'd be interested in hearing what you're thinking of.

MattInTO said...

It's quite scary to think (and I'm not even a woman) that we're on the brink of a return to coat hangers, back-alley abortions, septic women from said illegal abortions and the like. As one my last acts before leaving the United States for awhile, I'd like to find a way to stop Alito from joining the Court. Because, as we've seen in his writings, more of which were exposed today, there's no bigger foe of a woman's say over her own body than Samuel Alito. The man's a menace and should be stopped at all costs.

Matt

L-girl said...

For too many American women, those days are already here - and have been, increasingly, for the past 20 years. Check out my essay for a summary.

I'm a lifelong abortion activist, yet I don't focus on Roe. The battle is already lost in so many states.

But having said that, I wish you luck with Alito, you are totally right about him. I'm glad you're in the fight.

James said...

I've never personally been a big fan of abortion

I don't know of anybody who's a fan of abortion. The development I'd most like to see concerning abortion would be the elimination of the need for it.

But until then, it has to be there for those who need it.

L-girl said...

Right. But the need can never be eliminated entirely. That's why almost every culture has had termination procedures and people to perform them. Cultures that didn't practice abortion usually practiced infanticide after birth (not a direction you want to go in!).

It can be done in secret, and accessed only by some women, or it can be performed as a valid medical procedure, open to any woman or girl who has the need. History shows us that the former leads to lots of terrible problems, and is certainly discriminatory, too.

James said...

Right. But the need can never be eliminated entirely.

I'm not convinced that it's impossible to eliminate the need, but it would require serious advances in fertility control and social acceptance of such.

Ideally, everyone should be able to "turn off" their fertility until they want to have kids, then turn it on. Unfortunately, current social attitudes don't work well with that sort of idea: a lot of men would see the whole notion of turning off their fertility as a threat to their worth, and of course those folks who are current opposing the use of HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer (on the ground that, by making sex safer, it makes teens more likely to have sex) would spontaneously explode from the moralistic outrage.

Which is probably a good reason to persue such a system right there.

Lone Primate said...

What would balance look like? If you don't believe a man should be able to compel a woman to either bear a child or terminate a pregnancy...?

Since I can't imagine or condone a sitation in which a man could compel a woman to either bear or abort, it seems to me the only option would be something like a legal statement of disavowal. Obviously this would have to be ironclad and binding on the man if it were going to be anything other than frivilous. If a man were to take this step, he would have to give up every right a parent ordinarily has with regard to the child: no right of access, no right custodial rights, no visitations, no contact or communciation. If the step were taken, it would be for all times and forever (or at least until the child were 18 and undertook to seek out his or her biological father of his or her own volition). Deliberate attempts to circumvent any of those rules would be the same as violating a restraining clause. It's really about the only practical solution I've heard of, but it would go some way in returning some balance to the situation where there are no obvious balances or exact parallels. I don't believe it's fair that a man should have no say in his own reproductivity and responsibilities simply because he's not the one actually carrying the child. The whole point of equality is that people are born male or female and don't get to choose, so their rights relative to one another shouldn't be determined on that basis. That ought to be true where men are concerned too. Right now, it really isn't.

Obviously it isn't perfect, and it does leave itself open to abuse by irresponsible men. But so does serial abortion on the part of women. But if it is, finally, a woman's choice whether the child lives or dies, and if that decision is made without any legally-blinding input by the father, then that decision ought not to be contingent on his contribution to its upbringing. Responsible (and thus, worthwhile) fathers are likely to take up their responsibilities. Those who are not won't (with or without the onus of the law, it seems to me), and in that situation an abortion might seem what it probably actually is -- the better choice.

L-girl said...

Even if such a perfect fertility system existed, every single person on the planet wouldn't have access to it, and some with access wouldn't choose it, for whatever reason. No method of contraception is one-size-fits-all. Cultural differences in contraception are amazing. My friends at the Guttmacher Institute are always surprising me with their international research. Many cultures prefer a secret abortion to an open use of contraception.

There's also rape. A woman could have her fertility switch turned on (so to speak) but an unwanted pregnancy could still occur.

L-girl said...

Oops, my comment above was in reply to James's "I'm not convinced that it's impossible to eliminate the need...".

LP snuck in in the middle. :)

Must run now, will reply to LP's interesting thoughts later today. Ta-ta!

James said...

Of course, I'm talking about a hypothetical, ideal situation 'way in the future, and one that requires more than simply the techincal ability to do it -- it requires the social and economic changes which would make it universally available.

Any step in this direction is a step towards eliminating abortions through obsolescence -- even if we can't practically manage it in 100% of cases, we should be able to get aribrarily close to that goal. The main impediment isn't medical or scientific, it's social.

This is where the anti-abortion types really fall down. If they really wanted to get rid of abortions, they would be pushing for better contraception. But thanks to a combination of religious dogma and sex phobia, what they're really after is something rather different...

Lone Primate said...

The basic problem I have with most of the people opposed to abortion is that they're only concerned for the baby while it's in the womb. The minute it's born and a financial burden, though, they figure they already did their bit using the law to slap mama's hands away from the precious fetus. Now that it's a baby, it's not their problem to feed and clothe it... "that woman should have been more responsible, what was she thinking?" they tsk over brandy in their gated communities... :/

Lone Primate said...

LP snuck in in the middle. :)

But some people like that kinda thing! :)

L-girl said...

LP snuck in in the middle. :)

But some people like that kinda thing! :)


And who knows, I might be one of them... :)

L-girl said...

But if it is, finally, a woman's choice whether the child lives or dies, and if that decision is made without any legally-blinding input by the father, then that decision ought not to be contingent on his contribution to its upbringing.

This seems reasonable and worthwhile to me. It's true that just because a woman wants to have a child, doesn't mean the man should be forced to be a real father if he had no intentions of or desire to do so. As long as, as you said, he doesn't try for just the fun and easy parts of fatherhood without the responsibilities.

By the way, that's not a "child" that's living or dying, it's a fetus. Big big big difference.

L-girl said...

The main impediment isn't medical or scientific, it's social.

Absolutely. The social and cultural factors aren't necessarily impediments, so much as the reality of people's lives that have to be taken into account with any family planning scenario.

This is where the anti-abortion types really fall down. If they really wanted to get rid of abortions, they would be pushing for better contraception.

Yep. But they don't want to get rid of abortion, only. They want to get rid of sex without consequences, and women's freedom.

The basic problem I have with most of the people opposed to abortion is that they're only concerned for the baby while it's in the womb.

And yep. That's where they really show their true colours. They don't give a shit about babies, or children, or people. That's not at all what that movement is about. I won't get started here...