News Roundup and Roe V. Wade
Some positive reproductive health news, from Virginia (via Ms. X):
RICHMOND - A bill to require parental notification when a minor receives birth control or other health services from a public agency failed to advance in a House committee Tuesday.
HB1662, proposed by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, was tabled on a 15-7 vote. There was no indication the committee plans any further action on it.
The bill would have required any state or local government employee who provides services to a minor "relating to sexually transmitted diseases, the provision of emergency contraception, pregnancy, illegal drug use, and the contemplation of suicide" to notify a parent within two days.
MADRID, Spain - In a substantial shift from traditional policy, the spokesman for the Catholic Church in Spain has said it supports the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS (news - web sites).
"Condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS," Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, told reporters after a meeting Tuesday with Health Minister Elena Salgado to discuss ways of fighting the disease.
The Catholic Church has repeatedly rebuffed campaigns for it to endorse the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS. The Vatican (news - web sites) states that condoms, because they are a form of artificial birth control, cannot be used to help prevent the spread of HIV (news - web sites), the virus that causes AIDS.
Martinez Camino said the church's stance was backed by the scientific world. He cited a recent study by experts in the medical magazine Lancet that supported the so-called "ABC" approach of abstinence, being faithful to partners and using condoms.
"The Church is very worried and interested by this problem," he said.
There was no comment from the Vatican to the Spanish statement.
Update: MADRID (AFP) - The Roman Catholic Church in Spain moved to quench any notion of a sea-change in its attitude to the use of contraceptives, saying remarks by one of its top people had been misunderstood and that doctrine remained as before.
Also, some troubling news from Lagos:
LAGOS (AFP) - Two million Nigerian children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and 900 people are dying needlessly from the virus every day, the international medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) said.
"Instead of being the future of this country, these children grow up as orphans lacking parents who could take care of their education or even teach them the most basic skills in their lives," said MSF spokesman Tobias Luppe.
And some deeply disturbing [but not for the obvious reason] news from the U.S. (emphasis mine):
WASHINGTON - The woman once known as "Jane Roe" has asked the Supreme Court to overturn its landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 32 years ago.
Norma McCorvey, whose protest of Texas' abortion ban led to the 1973 ruling, contends in a petition received at the court Tuesday that the case should be heard again in light of evidence that the procedure may harm women.
Two lower courts last year threw out McCorvey's request to have the ruling reconsidered.
But in a strongly worded concurrence, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) judge Edith H. Jones criticized the abortion ruling and said new medical evidence may well show undue harm to a mother and her fetus.
This is what I find disturbing: The Supreme Court is asked to act based on what Ms. McCorvey calls evidence that the procedure may harm women [I assume she means *new* evidence? I ask because this "evidence" is nowhere to be found in the specialty's reference textbooks, the American College of Ob/Gyns' practice guidelines, standard of care protocols, etc.], and on judge Jones' divining that, maybe, perhaps at some time in the near, or possibly distant future, and/or never, new medical evidence may well show undue harm to a mother and her fetus.
I hesitate to use this important development to be snarky [oh, who am I kidding, I simply must], but: baseless* lawsuits can't be kept away from taxing the highest court's time and resources, and still the garden variety torterts insist the system isn't broken.
*[Update: Disregard this paragraph] Please take into account the fact that I haven't actually seen what's in the papers filed with the Supreme Court (I tried to do a search on the site, but wasn't able to locate the documents); this is just my informed opinion [I'm not aware of any revisions to the existing risks of medical or surgical terminations.]
Oh, why do I do these things! I just had to take a look at some of this "evidence", and what I found is even more disturbing than what I had initially thought. [Note to self: sometimes, ignorance is bliss.]
Here is, what I believe to be, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' opinion (.pdf) mentioned in the article. The Court dismisses Ms. McCorvey's lawsuit, Judge Jones concurs with the dismissal, and then goes on to say [and this is where we see Ms. McCorvey's "evidence" outlined] (emphasis mine):
Even more ironic is that although mootness dictates that Ms. McCorvey has no "live" legal controversy [mootness, a legal thing, was the basis for the case dismissal], the serious and substantial evidence she offered could have generated an important debate over factual premises that underlay Roe.
So, what is this serious and substantial evidence that abortion may harm women offered by Ms. McCorvey? (emphasis mine)
McCorvey presented evidence that goes to the heart of the balance Roe struck between the choice of a mother and the life of her unborn child. First, there are about a thousand affidavits of women who have had abortions and claim to have suffered long-term emotional damage and impaired relationships from their decision. Studies by scientists, offered by McCorvey, suggest that women may be affected emotionally and physically for years afterward and may be more prone to engage in high-risk, self-destructive conduct as a result of having had abortions. Second, Roe's assumption that the decision to abort a baby will be made in close consultation with a woman's private physician is called into question by affidavits from workers at abortion clinics, where most abortions are now performed. According to the affidavits, women are often herded through their procedures with little or no medical or emotional counseling. Third, McCorvey contends that the sociological landscape surrounding unwed motherhood has changed dramatically since Roe was decided. No longer does the unwed mother face social ostracism, and government programs offer medical care, social services, and even, through "Baby Moses" laws in over three-quarters of the states, the option of leaving a newborn directly in the care of the state until it can be adopted. Finally, neonatal and medical science, summarized by McCorvey, now graphically portrays, as science was unable to do 31 years ago, how a baby develops sensitivity to external stimuli and to pain much earlier than was then believed. In sum, if courts were to delve into the facts underlying Roe's balancing scheme with present-day knowledge, they might conclude that the woman's "choice" is far more risky and less beneficial, and the child's sentience far more advanced, than the Roe Court knew.
To summarize, Ms. McCorvey's new medical "evidence" [yes, I'm using scare quotes deliberately] is:
1) Abortion linked to emotional, physical, and psychological problems: [A]bout a thousand affidavits of women who have had abortions and claim to have suffered long-term emotional damage and impaired relationships from their decision.
[In the legal paper, the [s]tudies by scientists, ... [that] suggest that women may be affected emotionally and physically for years afterward and may be more prone to engage in high-risk, self-destructive conduct as a result of having had abortions. are sourced to an affidavit of David Reardon, Ph.D. (reporting on clinical and scientific findings demonstrating that abortion is linked to emotional, physical, and psychological problems in women and criticizing the studies relied on by the Roe Court). The Elliot Institute, and David Reardon, Ph. D notwithstanding (valid methodology and all that), a link between abx and emotional/physical?/psych problems hasn't been demonstrated.]
So, about 1001 affidavits of women who have had abortions and claim to have experienced beneficial long-term emotional gains and enhanced relationships from their decision will disprove Ms. McCorvey's "evidence".
2) Consultation with attending physician: [A]ffidavits from workers at abortion clinics ... call[ing] into question ... Roe's assumption that the decision to abort a baby will be made in close consultation with a woman's private physician.
Again, affidavits + 1 from workers at abortion clinics supporting Roe's assumption that the decision to abort a baby will be made in close consultation with a woman's private doctor will disprove Ms. McCorvey's "evidence".
3) Changes in the unwed motherhood sociological landscape: [Ms.] McCorvey conten[ion] that the sociological landscape surrounding unwed motherhood has changed dramatically since Roe was decided.
Two women's contradictory contentions will suffice to disprove Ms. . McCorvey's "evidence".
4) Fetal pain: [N]eonatal and medical science now graphically portrays, as science was unable to do 31 years ago, how a baby develops sensitivity to external stimuli and to pain much earlier than was then believed.
We've already discussed fetal pain, a fetus' sentience, and the misinformation surrounding this topic. [Also, advances in medical science detection methods does not = "new medical evidence against Roe".]
After reading Ms. McCorvey's "evidence" I stand by my earlier conclusion: the Supreme Court petition to rehear Roe v. Wade does not contain any new medical evidence.