|Planned Parenthood® of Central New Jersey|
What's Happening in Washington
In order to affirm our fundamental human rights, it is important to ensure that the judges on our federal benches will protect family planning services, abortion providers, and the women they serve.
Past Supreme Court decisions have defined the scope of reproductive freedom within shifting boundaries. Now, an anti-choice president faces his first opportunity to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court. In June, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement which will dramatically change the Supreme Court’s composition by removing a crucial moderate voice that has often been at the heart of protecting women’s health and rights. In September, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died, opening a second vacancy. President Bush nominated John Roberts to replace William Rehnquist as Chief Justice of the United States. If confirmed, Roberts will serve as Chief Justice for the new Supreme Court session starting on October 3, 2005. Bush had originally nominated Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and must now submit another nominee for that position. Justice O’Connor has said she will remain on the Court until her successor is confirmed.
This fall the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments for Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood against the state of New Hampshire seeking to prohibit the state from enforcing a recently enacted parental notification law. This case involves a New Hampshire law preventing doctors from providing abortions to women under the age of 18 until 48 hours after a parent has been notified. Two lower federal courts have ruled the law unconstitutional because it does not contain an exception for cases in which the delay might threaten a young woman’s health. When the ruling on this case is issued, the newly-constituted Court will likely rule on the degree to which the states and the federal government must protect a woman’s health when they move to restrict access to abortion services. While this case might not reverse the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which gave American women the right to obtain an abortion, actual access to safe abortion services is very much at stake.
With so much at stake, Planned Parenthood has been on the frontlines of the Supreme Court battles to ensure women’s health is protected. This is a critical juncture for reproductive rights in the Supreme Court and across the nation. We need Supreme Court justices who will uphold our constitutional right to privacy and other basic civil liberties.
Other Supreme Court vacancies may be imminent and the stakes have never been higher. An anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court will quickly begin to dismantle the constitutional protections for a woman’s right to choose. The nomination process for the nation’s highest court transcends partisan politics and should be above political games or ideological strategizing. There are many qualified nominees who are eminently capable and would not advance the agenda of any particular political, religious or ideological group. A lifetime appointment deserves a thoughtful, intelligent decision, not petty polarizing.
What does the Supreme Court have to do with abortion rights?
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Roe v. Wade that the state could not interfere with a woman’s decision to have an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. Additionally, the court held that the state could regulate abortion during the second three months if the regulation was narrowly tailored to protect the woman’s health and the state can bar abortion in the last three months except when the procedure is necessary to preserve the life and/or health of the woman.
What happens in the Supreme Court Nomination process?
Once a Supreme Court justice resigns, the President of the United States, with input from senior White House staff and the Department of Justice, submits a name for consideration to the United States Senate.
The Senate has the power to “advise and consent” on judicial nominations, according to the Constitution. Once a candidate is chosen by the President, it is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee which is comprised of 18 U.S. Senators and is chaired by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). The Judiciary Committee holds a public hearing to determine whether the nominee is fit to serve on the Supreme Court and then sends the nominee for a vote in the full Senate either with or without recommendation. A majority vote in the Senate is required to confirm the nominee.
Once confirmed, a Supreme Court justice serves for a lifetime appointment.
Visit www.SaveROE.com for more background information on the Supreme Court and lower court judges and nominees, quotes from anti-choice ideologue judges, and ways to take action and fight to prevent the confirmation of extremist nominees.
Status of Over-the-Counter Access
In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of emergency contraception as a prescription drug. Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have endorsed the widespread availability of emergency contraception. It is considered the standard of care.
On December 16, 2003, an FDA scientific panel recommended that emergency contraception (or the morning-after pill) should be sold over-the-counter without a doctor's prescription. On May 7, 2004, Steven Galson, acting director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation rejected Barr Laboratories application for over-the-counter status for its emergency contraceptive Plan B. The decision by the Food and Drug Administration went against the recommendation of a panel of scientific advisers and its own staff. The agency claimed it did not have enough scientific data to determine whether broader access to EC would increase the rates of sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls.
The FDA has been under pressure to reduce access to EC from legislators and lobby groups who oppose expanding access to contraception. This decision has sparked charges that the Bush administration has let politics interfere with science. However, the drug maker Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. was informed that regulators would reconsider the denial if the company provided certain additional information.
Clearly, promises and science mean nothing to the FDA. There is concern that the FDA will continue to stall on this decision indefinitely. Women have already waited needlessly for over two years for the FDA to act on an EC over-the-counter application.
Outrage and Resignations
Planned Parenthood admires Dr. Wood's courage and integrity and join her in asking that the political leaders of the FDA to do their job and begin to put science and our health ahead of politics.
On June 15, 2005, Senators Jon Corzine (NJ), Hillary Clinton (NY), and Olympia Snowe (ME) introduced the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act (CARE) in the U.S. Senate. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Rothman (NJ), and Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ).
This bill would require hospital emergency rooms to provide information about and access to emergency contraception to survivors of sexual assault. New Jersey already mandates that such information be provided; this will make sure that women throughout the country receive this standard of care when facing sexual assault.
“Putting Prevention First Act of 2004” was introduced on April 21, 2004. This long awaited omnibus family planning initiative would expand access to preventive health care services and education programs that help reduce unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the need for abortion.
New Jersey legislators that have signed on to date as co-sponsors include: Senator Jon Corzine, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Rush Holt (District 12), Congressman Steven Rothman (District 9), Congressman Robert Menendez (District 13) and Congressman Frank Pallone (District 6).
Senate Bill 2020 would protect women's civil liberties and prohibit the government from interfering in the exercise of reproductive rights. FOCA would forbid government interference in a woman's right to make her own family planning and reproductive health decisions.
The legislation would invalidate current restrictions on access, such as mandated delays and targeted and medically unnecessary regulations, to abortion and family planning health care services. The bill would prevent the government from discriminating against a woman on the basis of her reproductive decisions, about using birth control, having a child or terminating a pregnancy.
The "so-called" Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, a federal abortion ban, was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. PPFA and other coalition partners filed lawsuits to challenge the federal ban which were ultimately upheld in federal court. This law bans safe and medically appropriate methods of abortion and puts women's health at risk.
The public debate on so-called "partial
birth" abortions has focused on the small number of late term abortions.
Courts across the country have found that the language is so broad that it
covers abortions and procedures commonly done in the second trimester of
pregnancy. The Nebraska version of this law has already been reviewed by the
US Supreme Court and found to be unconstitutional.
Abortion bans continue to get legislative approval even though the Supreme Court has said unequivocally that any abortion restriction that lacks an exception to protect a woman’s health is flawed and violates a woman’s right to choose. Anti-choice legislators continue to disregard the importance of protecting the woman’s health and refuse to include that reasonable exception.
In three federal courts rulings in New York, California and Nebraska, the 2003 federal abortion ban was struck down which means the ban cannot take affect or be enforced.
The federal abortion ban will continue to be appealed in the courts. This law and the appeal process reminds us of the importance of the Supreme Court and the impact of its decisions on reproductive health. The newly-constituted U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the degree to which the states and the federal government must protect a woman’s health when they continue to hear cases that restrict access to abortion services. Access to safe abortion services is very much at stake.
In a Rose Garden ceremony on April 1, 2004, President Bush signed the fetal rights legislation known as the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act”.
The law creates a separate criminal offense for the killing or injury to an “unborn child” while committing a federal crime against a pregnant woman. The new law recognizes as a legal victim any “child in utero” who is injured or killed during the commission of a federal crime of violence. The term “child in utero” is defined in the bill as “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” Opponents argue that the bill creates new rights for fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses and is a transparent effort to undermine rights guaranteed by the constitution and established in Roe v. Wade.
The Teen Endangerment Act (or "So-Called" Child Custody Protection or Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act)
(H. R. 1755, 2003; S. 851, 2003) More than
75 percent of the states have adopted laws mandating that a young woman
obtain the consent of or notify one or both parents prior to her abortion.
Anti-choice members of Congress are seeking to make it even more difficult
for minors living in states with mandatory parental involvement laws to
obtain an abortion.
In recent years, a
campaign of violence, intimidation, and harassment has been waged against
reproductive health care providers, patients and their families. Tragically,
this campaign resulted in several deaths, including the 1998 murder of Dr.
Barnett Slepian in his home in Buffalo, New York. Other violent attacks by
abortion opponents have included death threats, stalking incidents,
assaults, kidnapping, bombings, arson, clinic invasions, blockades and
butyric-acid attacks at health care facilities.
In March 2003,
the U.S. Senate voted down a package of common sense measures that would
have reduced the number of abortions while protecting a woman's right to
choose. The package included the Equity in Prescription Insurance and
Contraceptive Coverage Act (EPICC). The 49 to 47 vote came as an amendment
to legislation that would criminalize safe abortion procedures. The
amendment ultimately failed for procedural reasons.
Title X of the Public Health Service Act
was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970 and continues to be the
foundation of America's family planning program. For 30 years, Title X has
been the nation's major program to reduce unintended pregnancy by providing
contraceptive and related reproductive health care services to low-income
women. Federal funding covers a wide range of reproductive health services
but is not used for abortion services. Although public funds for family
planning services also come from other programs — including Medicaid, state
funds, and the Maternal and Child Health and Social Services block grants —
Title X is the only federal program dedicated solely to funding family
planning and related reproductive health care services.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Roe v. Wade that the state could not interfere with a woman’s decision to have an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. Additionally, the court held that the state could regulate abortion during the second three months if the regulation was narrowly tailored to protect the woman’s health and the state can bar abortion in the last three months except when the procedure is necessary to preserve the life and health of the woman.
The Supreme Court confirmed women’s right
to choose abortion in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, and the courts have upheld that
finding in subsequent cases. But access to abortion has been severely
eroded. Many factors contribute to the current crisis in abortion access
including state laws that make getting an abortion more complicated than is
medically necessary, continued threats of violence and fewer providers.
Bills restricting access to abortion or family planning for minors, poor women and women serving in the military, or restrictions on our ability to advocate and provide full options counseling are often presented as amendments to federal appropriations bills.
At Planned Parenthood, we work to ensure
that no one is denied abortion services solely because of age, or economic
or social circumstances.
In 2004, a report from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (CA) showed that the federally-funded abstinence-only sex education curricula contain pervasive errors and misinformation on a wide range of important sexual and reproductive health issues, including:
§ grossly underestimating the effectiveness of condoms and other contraceptives in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs);
§ making false claims about the physical and psychological risks of abortion;
§ offering misinformation on the incidence and transmission of STIs;
§ replacing scientific facts with religious views and moral judgments; and
§ distorting medical evidence and basic scientific facts.
The report examined school-based sex education curricula used by programs funded under Special Projects of Regional and National Significance Community-Based Abstinence Education (SPRANS), the fastest-growing source of federally funded abstinence education. Since 1996, nearly $1 billion in state and federal funding, under three funding streams, has been spent on abstinence-only education that denies young people information about contraception beyond failure rates. Another $170 million in federal funds is slated for FY 2005, despite a lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of this approach.
The United States continues to have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world, and roughly nine million new STIs occur among teenagers and young adults in the United States each year. By promoting abstinence-only education that omits complete, medically accurate information, U.S. policy ignores research, public opinion and the experience of other countries about what actually works to prevent teenage pregnancy and STIs.
For the full Waxman report, click here
For the latest research and analysis on sex education in the U.S.,click here
For more information about funding for abstinence-only education programs and teen family planning services click here
Source: Alan Guttmacher Institute