TV Highlights

For what it’s worth — I’m watching the NBC series “Crossing Jordan,” and they’ve introduced an interesting plot twist — one of the main characters, definitely a “good” guy, was “disappeared” by Homeland Security on suspicion of being a terrorist, which was not true. The good guy was interrogated by a sinister agent, and there was suggestion he was tortured. The other characters first had to learn where he was and then tried to get him “sprung,” to be told by a judge there was nothing that could be done because habeas corpus didn’t apply. At the very end of the episode the character was released, but he looked rattled.

It was a nice dramatization of why habeas is necessary. I also think it’s interesting that NBC felt comfortable making Homeland Security the villain of the episode.

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Late-Term Confusion

From Wizbang, which is always a reliable source of examples of rightie stupidity:

Most Americans, even those who are pro-choice, understand how sick this procedure was. If a late term pregnancy was so harmful to the mother’s health, then the mother should just deliver the baby and give the baby a chance to survive. But this procedure wasn’t really about saving the life of the mother. It was about killing an unwanted baby.

I’m seeing many variations of this opinion drizzled around the Right Blogosphere, and it reveals that, once again, righties lack a grasp of basic facts.

Firat off, calling D&E procedures “late term” never was correct, because it’s a second trimester procedure performed before the fetus is developed enough to be viable. Roe v. Wade permits states to ban elective abortions by any means after viability as long as there is an exception for life and health of the mother, and it is very unusual to have to sacrifice a viable baby to save the mother. “Very unusual” is not the same thing as “never happens,” however. The point is that it’s illegal to abort a viable fetus without medical cause in most states already, and has been for years.

The Wizbang post continues —

Here’s a feminist whose first comment was “We’re f***ed.” Sure, lady, if you mean that you can’t go to an abortionist when you’re 6+ months pregnant and have your unborn baby almost completely delivered except for his head and have his brains sucked out while he’s still alive because you just don’t feel like being pregnant any longer, then yes, I suppose you’re f***ed.

And, in fact, what this guy is talking about has been illegal in most states all along, and is no more illegal today than it was yesterday. When you say 6+ months you’re talking about after the 24th week of gestation, and that’s clearly within the time that a fetus might be viable. Therefore, that procedure wasn’t protected by Roe v. Wade unless there was medical need. Also, my understanding is that what procedures are performed after the 18th week or so of gestation are done by another means than D&E anyway.

I’ve seen some arguments that today’s ruling might end up hurting the Right. That’s a complicated subject. I do suspect the Fetus People might be thrown into confusion when it finally dawns on them that second-trimester abortions are still being performed, but that depends on what happens in the states. As I wrote in the last post, I think we can count on conservative state legislators to use today’s ruling as an excuse to write abortion laws that are even more restrictive than the one covered in the case decided today. We can also expect that in some states the ruling will be used to intimidate abortion providers from performing second-trimester abortions by any means. It’s going to get interesting.

Update: Here’s another example of profound ignorance. The rightie assumes that “partial-birth abortion” is a catchall term for all abortions performed after the first trimester:

… after running through some of the reactions on the left, it is clear that many that write those blogs are men because they seem to have no understanding of the differences between an abortion performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and a partial birth abortion.

Unfortunately, as Kennedy pointed out, neither do some women. Then you have women that DO understand the differences between abotion and partial birth abortion and simply do not care. Some seem to feel that it doesn’t matter if the baby is alive or not ater 12 weeks or even after 6 months, they feel their rights should trump the rights of an unborn child, even if the child is already displaying a heartbeat, movement and other signs showing it is alive.

An embryo/fetus is just as “alive” in the first trimester as it is in the second. The writer confuses “alive” with “viable.” Recently an infant survived that was believed to have been born at 21 weeks gestation. This made international news because she was the first baby ever known to have survived after a gestation period of fewer than 23 weeks. That’s very late in the second trimester. About 10 percent of abortions are performed during the 13th to 20th weeks of gestation, and no fetus is viable in that period.

Do not let some of the over heated reactions confuse the two issues, women can still have abortions, that has not changed, they just need to make that decision in a timely manner before a fetus actually becomes a baby that is alive.

The only rights that have been harmed here is a womans right to have her doctor murder her child.

I’d encourage any woman who plans to have an elective abortion to do this as early as possible, for her own safety. But what this dimbulb doesn’t grasp is that many serious complications can occur in the second trimester that can put a woman’s life at risk, and if the pregnancy has to be terminated before 23 weeks gestation (with one exception) the infant is not going to survive no matter how it is delivered. For example, preeclampsia, or pregnancy induced hypertension, is a common complication that can put the mother at risk of convulsion and death. In extreme cases the only way to save the mother’s life is to terminate the pregnancy, and sometimes this must be done before the fetus is viable. Terminating a pregnancy to save her own life doesn’t make a woman a monster, in my opinion.

A great many severe birth anomalies cannot be diagnosed until the second trimester. These include anencephaly, Tay Sachs, and other conditions that will take the baby’s life, with no exceptions. I believe strongly that when these diagnoses are made it must be up to the mother, and preferably her husband or partner also, to decide whether to carry the pregnancy to term. Not the government.

Here’s a heartbreaking story in which one twin might have been saved by sacrificing the other, which had no realistic chance to survive. But this procedure violated the hospital’s abortion policy, so the laboring mother was transported to another hospital several miles away, and both twins were stillborn. The father of the twins writes,

But the greater tragedy here, to my mind, is the straitjacket that a religious worldview imposes on the complexity inherent within clinical medicine. Our world sometimes presents us with situations that cannot be simplistically categorized as pro-choice or pro-life, and other patients across the nation will be faced with decisions like the ones we made on that fateful day.

This is why hospital policies that originate in religion rather than science can be unhealthy and unsafe. Personal religious beliefs can and should guide the lives of clinicians of faith. The extent to which they guide a clinician’s professional life is the clinician’s personal matter, and I hope that clinicians will choose specialties and practice settings that ensure that patients receive needed care regardless of the clinician’s religious beliefs. However, the extent to which these beliefs guide hospital policy is a matter of concern to all of us, whether we are patients or clinicians. The extent to which the US medical establishment succeeds in circumscribing the circle of influence of religion-based medicine will determine the quality of health care that phsycians can offer their patients. Clearly, irrespective of what religion each of us belongs to, this is the very least that our patients deserve.

But no; this twit thinks that people like this father are heartless murderers who kill their babies just because they’re having a bad day.

Update 2: Scott Lemieux explains it all for you.

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Pandora’s Box

I’ve just learned that the Supreme Court upheld the national “partial birth” abortion ban passed by Congress in 2003. The five justice who made up the majority are Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Kennedy.

The repercussions of this ruling will depend a great deal on how the various states interpret the ban. Physicians have complained that the ban, as it is worded, could be interpreted to ban just about any type of abortion. If that’s the case, I think this will bring about a huge public backlash against the Fetus People, which is something I don’t think they realize.

On the other hand, if it is interpreted to ban only the dilatation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, which is commonly used in the second trimester, then nearly 90 percent of abortions, performed in the first trimester using other methods, would not be affected. And second trimester abortions would still be performed, but by other means that pose greater risk to women. Even so, abortions performed by physicians in sterile environments would not likely result in the carnage that a return to “back alley” abortions would cause. It’s hard to know if a ban on D&E only would create much of a public stir at all.

But I think we can count on conservative state legislators to go for the more expansive interpretation of the ruling. I’m sure that many Red State politicians are busily writing up new and more oppressive abortion laws that go beyond today’s ruling even as I keyboard, and I strongly suspect this ruling has just opened a big can of damn ugly worms.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) filed an amicus brief in support of the challenge to the ban. I’m going to paste an ACOG press release about the brief here, because I think it explains the issues clearly.

For Release: September 22, 2006

ACOG Files Amicus Brief in Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. PPFA

Washington, DC — The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has filed an amicus brief in support of the challenges to the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 8, 2006, in two cases that dispute the constitutionality of the Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in November 2003. The ban has not taken effect because of the legal challenges.

Almost immediately after the Act was signed into law by President Bush, physicians and medical groups filed three separate lawsuits challenging it in federal courts in New York, Nebraska, and California. In each case, the court ruled the Act unconstitutional and the decision was upheld on appeal. The government subsequently sought review of two of the cases by the US Supreme Court: Gonzales v. Carhart (Nebraska) and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) (California). Any further appeals in the New York case would be initiated after the US Supreme Court rules on the Nebraska and California cases. [I assume this is moot now — maha]

“The courts were correct each time they struck down such ill-conceived and unconstitutional restrictions on physicians’ ability to provide patients with the safest possible medical care,” according to Douglas W. Laube, MD, MEd, president of ACOG.

The Act purports to ban so-called “partial-birth abortions;” however, “partial-birth abortion” is not a medical term and is not recognized in the field of medicine. The Act defines “partial-birth abortion” in a way that encompasses a variation of dilatation and evacuation (D&E), the most common method of second-trimester abortion, in which the fetus remains intact as it is removed from the woman’s uterus. The Act’s definition also encompasses some D&E procedures in which the fetus is not removed intact.

Over 95% of induced abortions in the second trimester are performed using the D&E method. The alternatives to D&E in the second trimester are abdominal surgery or induction abortion. Doctors rarely perform an abortion by abdominal surgery because doing so entails far greater risks to the woman. The induction method imposes serious risks to women with certain medical conditions and is entirely contraindicated for others.

The intact variant of D&E offers significant safety advantages over the non-intact method, including a reduced risk of catastrophic hemorrhage and life-threatening infection. These safety advantages are widely recognized by experts in the field of women’s health, authoritative medical texts, peer-reviewed studies, and the nation’s leading medical schools. ACOG has thus concluded that an intact D&E “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of the woman, and only the doctor in consultation with the patient, based on the woman’s particular circumstances can make that decision.” [ACOG Statement of Policy on Abortion (reaffirmed 2004)]

ACOG objects to the 2003 federal ban because it exposes women to serious, unnecessary health risks and does not include any exception to protect women’s health. In addition, ACOG objects to the Act’s vague and overly broad terms because doctors will be unable to determine whether their actions are prohibited by the Act. As a result, the Act will deter doctors from providing a wide range of procedures used to safely perform induced abortions.

“The term ‘partial-birth abortion’ was purposely contrived to be inflammatory,” said Dr. Laube. “While proponents of this law say that it addresses a particular procedure, it has been specifically written to describe and encompass elements of other procedures used in obstetrics and gynecology.”

In 2000, ACOG filed an amicus brief in Stenberg v. Carhart on behalf of the challengers to a Nebraska law that attempted to ban so-called “partial-birth abortions.” The US Supreme Court struck down the Nebraska law, ruling that it violated the US Constitution by failing to provide any exception “for the preservation of the health of the mother” and being so broadly written that it could prohibit other types of abortion procedures such D&E, thereby unduly burdening a woman’s ability to choose to have an abortion.

“Decisions involving pregnancy termination are among the most serious and personal that a woman will make in her life. As the medical specialists in women’s reproductive health, we will continue to fight attempts to criminalize legitimate medical procedures,” said Dr. Laube.

# # #

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the national medical organization representing over 51,000 members who provide health care for women.

Let’s hear from the only woman on the Court:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking in the courtroom for the dissenters, called the ruling “an alarming decision” that refuses “to take seriously” the Court’s 1992 decisions reaffirming most of Roe v. Wade and its 2000 decision in Stenberg v. Carhart striking down a state partial-birth abortion law.

Ginsburg, in a lengthy statement, said “the Court’s opinion 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. For the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception protecting a woman’s health.” She said the federal ban “and the Court’s defense of it cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives. A decision of the character the Court makes today should not have staying power.”

That final comment, concluding remarks delivered without an open display of emotion, clearly was a suggestion that the ruling might not survive new appointments to the Court — just as the arrival of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and, especially, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. — had led to the switch she claimed had come about this time. Ginsburg pointedly noted that the Court is “differently imposed that it was when we last considered a restrictive abortion regulation” — in Stenberg in 2000.

In the course of her dissenting opinion, Ginsburg accused the majority of offering “flimsy and transparent justifications” for upholding the ban. She also denounced the Kennedy opinion for its use of “abortion doctor” to describe specialists who perform gynecological services, “unborn child” and “baby” to describe a fetus, and “preferences” based on “mere convenience” to describe the medical judgments of trained doctors. She also commented: “Ultimately, the Court admits that ‘moral concerns’ are at work, concerns that cdould yield prohibtions on any abortion.”

I have a lot of questions about today’s ruling. For example if the Court has affirmed an abortion law that doesn’t have a “life and health of the mother” clause, what does that do to Roe v. Wade?

And may I say that if even one woman dies or is needlessly impaired because the government has “tied the hands” of physicians, it’s an injustice.

Update: Interesting commentary at Hotline on Call.

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