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Sunday, October 29, 2006
Steele Gaffe
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:49 am

Of course, saying that an amendment to the Constitution has to go before the Supreme Court (as he did when Russert mentioned voting for an amendment to ban abortions) doesn’t make one look too swift…

I’ll post the quote when the transcript is up.

Updates: Here ya go (MTP Transcript for Oct. 29):

MR. RUSSERT: Another issue that has emerged in the campaign. Here’s the latest headline. “Religious leaders and abortion foes are pumping more than $140,000 into the final weeks of the Maryland U.S. Senate contest to motivate ‘values voters’ by elevating such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage. … National Right to Life’s political action committee plans to run radio commercials on Steele’s behalf … and has spent more than $72,000 supporting [his] candidacy with ads and mail.” The National Abortion Rights Action League supporting your campaign, Mr. Cardin. The issue is being engaged. And let me ask each of you. Mr. Steele, if you’re United States Senator, would you vote for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion?

LT. GOV. STEELE: I don’t — vote for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion? I think we’d have to have that get to the Supreme Court, wouldn’t we? I haven’t seen that bill proposed. I don’t think…

Tot be fair, people are going to make mistakes, but still, someone running for the Senate should know the amendment process.

Filed under: US Politics, Abortion, 2006 Elections | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Colombia’s Constitutional Court Lightens Abortion Restrictions
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:28 am

Via the BBC: Colombia court eases abortion ban

Colombia’s constitutional court has voted to partially legalise abortion.

The court decided to permit terminations in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother or foetus is in danger.

Colombia is a very Catholic country, and therefore the prevailing legal order on abortion should not be a surprise.

Filed under: Latin America, Abortion, Colombia | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Monday, March 6, 2006
Abortion Law Signed
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:29 pm

Via Reuters: South Dakota governor signs key anti-abortion law

How long until the first lawsuit?

Filed under: Abortion | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
South Dakota Throws Down Gauntlet on Roe
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:08 pm

Via Reuters S. Dakota legislature passes abortion ban

South Dakota became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning abortion in virtually all cases, with the intention of forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision legalizing the procedure.

The law, which would punish doctors who perform the operation with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Michael Rounds and people on both sides of the issue say he is unlikely to veto it.


State legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky also have introduced similar measures this year, but South Dakota’s legislative calendar means its law is likely to be enacted first.

Most interesting.

Regardless of one’s position on the topic, this is some high drama, high stakes politics. Indeed, it is surprising that no state has attempted this process before.

Of course, just because the law is passed and then is challenged in federal court doesn’t mean that it will ever get beyond the Circuit Court level.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
SCOTUS to Hear Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

Via WaPo: Supreme Court Plunges Into Abortion Debate

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.

This will be a big one is a lot of ways, not the least of which being that the last time a partial bith abortion case came to the Court, a state law was struck down by a 5-4 vote, with Sandra Day O’Connor being the tie-breaker.

The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

A Stitch in Haste linked with The Real Significance of the Partial-Birth Abortion Case
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
SCOTUS Punts in Ayotte
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:55 am

Via the AP: Supreme Court Affirms N.H. Abortion Law

The Supreme Court steered clear of a major ruling on abortion Wednesday, instead giving New Hampshire a chance to save its parental notification law.

Justices, in a rare unanimous abortion ruling, agreed that the New Hampshire law could make it too hard for some ill minors to get an abortion, but at the same time they were hesitant about stepping in to fix the 2003 statute. They told a lower court to reconsider whether the entire law is unconstitutional.

To be honest, from the story I couldn’t tell you if this is good, bad, or indifferent ruling, but it is amusing to me the degree to which the Court often punts on controversial rulings, which really undercuts the argument that Justices are out to tyrannizes the population.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Gender Selection and Abortion in India
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:28 pm

Via the CSM: India’s ‘girl deficit’ deepest among educated

Banned by Indian law for more than a decade, the practice of prenatal selection and selective abortion remains a common practice in India, claiming up to half a million female children each year, according to a recent study by the British medical journal, The Lancet.

The use of ultrasound equipment to determine the sex of an unborn child - introduced to India in 1979 - has now spread to every district in the country. The study found it played a crucial role in the termination of an estimated 10 million female fetuses in the two decades leading up to 1998, and 5 million since 1994, the year the practice was banned. Few doctors in regular clinics offer the service openly, but activists estimate that sex-selection is a $100 million business in India, largely through mobile sex-selection clinics that can drive into almost any village or neighborhood.


I will note that story points out that there are reasons to believe that estimates from the study are high-however even the more conservative figures are still tragic in their scope. Whether we are talking 500,000 a year or 250,000 a year, that is still a lot of aborted little girls for no other reason than they were little girls.

And, of course, such practices skew the gender ratios:

According to the official Indian Census of 2001, there were 927 girl babies for every 1,000 boy babies, nationwide. The problem is worst in the northwestern states of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Gujarat, where the ratio is less than 900 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Against common expectations, female feticide is not a crime of India’s backward masses. Instead, it is most common among India’s elite, who can afford multiple trips to an ultrasound clinic, and the hushed-up abortion of an unwanted girl. In the prosperous farming district of Kurukshetra, for instance, there are only 770 girl babies for every 1,000 boys. In the high-rent Southwest neighborhoods of New Delhi, the number of girl babies is 845 per 1,000 boys.

And today’s prize for poor reasoning goes to Donna Fernandez:

Some activists say it is wrong to blame Indian society for the incidents of female feticide. The main cause for the “girl deficit,” they say, is the arrival of ultrasound technology, and the entrepreneurial spirit of Indian doctors.

“This is not a cultural thing,” says Donna Fernandez, director of Vimochana, a women’s rights group based in Bangalore. “This is much more of an economic and political issue. It has got a lot to do with the globalization of technology. It’s about the commodification of choices.”

But if the bias towards male children is part of the culture, then I am afraid one has to fault said culture for making this particular choice so profitable. It is not the commodification of choice in general. Rather, it is commodification of a specific choice-and clearly one driven by the culture:

“I personally believe this as a failure of society, not a failure of women,” says Ms. Bishnoi. “Women who choose this technique may be victims of discrimination themselves, and they may not be the decisionmakers. Nobody can deny that the status of women is very low in India. There is no quick fix to this.”

The cultural practice of giving a dowry to the groom’s family puts a tremendous financial burden on a bride’s family. The cost of not paying a larger dowry can be even higher. In the high-tech city of Bangalore, activists report that it is still common for women to be burned alive by husbands who expected a larger dowry.

One can but hope that as India develops, that the status of women will also improve-and improve greatly.

Filed under: Global Politics, Abortion | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
It’s Back: Abortion at SCOTUS
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:31 am

Via the NYT: Case Reopens Abortion Issue for Justices

When the Supreme Court meets on Wednesday to hear its first abortion case in five years, the topic will be familiar: a requirement that doctors notify a pregnant teenager’s parent before performing an abortion.

The court has upheld such laws for years, even in its more liberal days, and nearly all states now have them. But in the current climate, with the court in transition and the abortion debate as raucous as it has ever been, there is no such thing as just another abortion case.

I’m not sure there is ever an abortion case that is just an abortion case. However, there is no doubt that this case will get extra-special coverage.

And there’s another abortion case on the docket…

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary, Immigration | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
I Wish Reporters would Take Government 101
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:23 pm

Via Reuters: Alito: abortion ruling deserves ‘great respect’ - Yahoo! News

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said on Tuesday that the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion “deserved great respect” but did not say how he would rule on it, a Democratic senator said.

One guesses (indeed, one knows by looking at his work on the Appeals Court) that Alito has “great respect” for all Supreme Court decisions.

Setting that aside, however, I continue to be annoyed at the coverage of the Court, insofar as Alito will never be in a position to “rule on” Roe, but at most will be able to rule on a case about abortion that might call into question elements of Roe. The way it is written here (and often discussed in the press and by politicians who should technically know better) it sounds like Justices actually get to go back and make specific rulings on the validity of old cases just because they want to do so.

Could Alito rule in a way that would overturn Roe?-possibly, but if that happens it will be as a result of a set of facts that bear on the issue and on the application of the Constitution to that issue. It would not be a ballot that says “Yes or No on Roe“-which is practially how it is continually portrayed.

Further, as I frequently note, even if Roe is overturned, abortion will not become illegal in the United States.

Both sides spend far, far too much energy worrying about Roe as if it was the totality of the abortion policy debate.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Gang of 14 Update
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:42 pm

Via the AP: Senate’s ‘Gang of 14′ Fractures Over Alito

The 14 centrists who averted a Senate breakdown over judicial nominees last spring are showing signs of splintering on President Bush’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court.

That is weakening the hand of Democrats opposed to conservative judge Samuel Alito and enhancing his prospects for confirmation.

The unity of the seven Democrats and the seven Republicans in the “Gang of 14″ was all that halted a major filibuster fight between GOP leader Bill Frist and Democratic leader Harry Reid earlier this year over Bush’s nominees.

The early defection of two of the group’s Republicans, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, will give the GOP the upper hand if Democrats decide to attempt a filibuster of Alito

None of this really makes sense. For one, based on what is in the article there is no evidence of “splintering”-instead we get this:

“People like Lindsey Graham and I, who were part of that group, I think you can bet we’ll be willing to vote to change the rules of the Senate so that we do not have a filibuster,” DeWine said only hours after Alito was announced.

Quite honestly, that is just the basic position of the 7 Reps in the 14-that if the Democrats filibuster under less than extraordinary circumstances, that they would be willing to “go nuclear.” As such, that statement by DeWine doesn’t represent anything new Heck the headline states that there was a “fracture”-either there is more to this story, or the author is reaching for drama.

Further, the analysis by the AP reporter is quite poor:

The loss of Graham and DeWine makes the “Gang of 14″ less influential.

Republicans hold 55 seats in the Senate, and while confirmation requires a simple majority, it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster.

However, Frist needs only a simple majority — 51 votes — to eliminate the stalling tactic.

That means he needs two members of the centrist group to join the rest of the GOP to make his goal. With a 50-vote tie in the Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney would cast the tie-breaking vote for the Republicans and Alito could be confirmed with majority support.

This assumes that Frist has a ready-to-launch 48 votes to change the rules. This may not be the case. It is far too early to be able to decide how either a filibuster would go, or how the nuclear vote would go.

Holland (the AP writer) needs to take a deep breath.

Also, of interest in re: Alito and abortion:

Durbin said that the judge never refused to answer any of his questions — as Miers and John Roberts had during their private interviews — and that Alito told him he saw a right to privacy in the Constitution, one of the building blocks of the court’s landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Alito and Abortion
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:45 pm

Via the CSM: On abortion, a nuanced stand

For example, of the four abortion cases in which he participated as an appeals court judge, he voted on the pro-choice side in all but one. A 1995 Alito vote striking down a Pennsylvania abortion restriction in particular is raising eyebrows among some legal scholars.

“That [1995 case] strongly seems to indicate that Alito is not a policy-driven true-believer who’s used every possible opportunity to advance one side’s preferred outcome, but instead a judge who has indeed come down on both sides, in different cases,” says David Garrow, a constitutional historian and expert in reproductive rights cases at the high court.

What a concept.

Here are the cases:

His four abortion cases include:

• A 1991 challenge to a Pennsylvania law requiring married women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion. The court struck down the restriction. Alito dissented.

• A 1995 challenge to a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking to use Medicaid funds to abort a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest to report the incident to law enforcement officials and identify the offender. Alito provided the decisive vote striking down the abortion restriction.

• A 1997 challenge to a New Jersey law that prevents parents from suing for damages on behalf of the wrongful death of a fetus. Alito ruled that the Constitution does not afford protection to the unborn.

• A 2000 challenge to New Jersey’s ban on so-called partial-birth abortions. Alito struck down the law based on a recent Supreme Court decision.

Really: how this paints a picture of an ultra-right-wing, extremist judicial activists is beyond me.

And, quoting his Casey dissent, you get a formulation that, it seems to me, is what one wants to hear from a Judge/Justice:

“Whether the legislature’s approach represents sound public policy is not a question for us to decide,” he wrote. “Our task here is simply to decide whether [the abortion law] meets constitutional standards.”


Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Alito, Parties and the Judiciary linked with [...] the idea that a Republican nominee might indeed be pro-life is hardly a shocker. Further, Alito’s record is hardly one of a crusade against abortion, and the testimony from his peers indicated t [...]
Eric the Red » scAlito-graphy linked with [...] Lets take a look at the record: Alito has only ruled against the Pro-Choice point of view once out of four cases before his court. That case overturned a Pennsylvania law requiring a woman to inform [...]
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Cohen on Roe
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:31 pm

WaPo’s Richard Cohen has an intersting piece on Roe v. Wade that is worth a read: Support Choice, Not Roe.

It well-reflects my own views, at least in a general sense, about Roe, although I obviously differ with Cohen’s view on abortion itself.

Certainly it strikes me as one of the most reasonable things I have read from a pro-choice individual on this subject.

Filed under: Abortion | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Is Roe all that Matters?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:55 pm

Given that I believe abortion to be the taking of life, I certainly see it as a very important issue. However, as anyone with a passing knowledge of the Supreme Court’s docket and history knows: their cases aren’t just about abortion (indeed, far from it).

However, whenever we talk about courts (at least the Courts of Appeal and SCOTUS) one gets the impression that that is all the courts deal with.

Certainly, the whole religion discussion underscores this fact-whether it be some Democrats being concerned about the Catholicism of some nominees, or the current assurances that some evangelicals and Republicans are taking from Miers’ religious history.

And clearly it is a central issue, if not the issue for many. For example: Dianne Feinstein: Judging Harriet Miers should wait for hearingsFeinstein has said repeatedly that it would be very difficult for her to support a nominee she thought would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Miers’ stance on Roe is unclear, and Feinstein didn’t say whether they discussed it.

“It’s a big threshold issue for me because a dominant majority of people in my state are pro-choice, I ran as a pro-choice Democrat, and she fills Sandra Day O’Connor’s shoes. And they are critical shoes as you look at matters involving choice,” Feinstein said.

Just today, I note that the AP has the following: Miers Backed Ban on Most Abortions in ‘89

As a candidate for the Dallas city council, Miers also signaled support for the overall agenda of Texans United for Life — agreeing she would support legislation restricting abortions if the Supreme Court ruled that states could ban abortions and would participate in “pro-life rallies and special events.”

As Feinstein notes in the same story:

“The answers clearly reflect that Harriet Miers is opposed to Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat and only woman on the Judiciary Committee. “This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard. It will be my intention to question her very carefully about these issues.”

This strikes me as an odd position (although hardly a new one). Since most people have an opinion, and typically an intense one, on the subject of abortion, the likelihood is that they wil therefre have some sort of “bias” on the question.

Some other examples of the centrality of abortion:

  • ABC News: GOP Senator Concerned About Miers’ Abortion Views
  • Miami Herald: Rove touted Miers’ abortion views
  • NPR: Abortion Views Key for Miers Backers, Foes

Again: abortion is very important, but it isn’t the main focus of attention of the Supreme Court. Further, even with Roe overturned, abortion is not going to be made illegal in the United States.

However, setting aside the issue of abortion itself, I would point out that the overreach that the Court displayed in Roe is largely responsible for the hyper-politicized environment we find ourselves in over forty years later vis-a-vis court appointees.

If the courts would leave issue like abortion in the legislative realm, where they belong, then we would be able debate the actual qualifications of a given nominee to be a judge rather than treating these nominees like they will be legislators of a type.

Update:: Parked in today’s Traffic Jam.

Filed under: US Politics, Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, June 12, 2005
PoliColumn: Abortion and the Judicial Wars
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:36 am

From today’s Mobile Register:

What’s driving the judicial battles?
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Special to the Register

Believe it or not, the fight over President Bush’s appeals court nominees, although it has abated somewhat with the confirmation of three judges, including Alabama’s Bill Pryor, is now more than four years old. During that time we have experienced the attacks of 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a presidential election.

The whole piece is here.

Filed under: My Columns, Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, May 16, 2005
Judicial Wars: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:19 pm

Via Robert Novak:

The abortion advocacy group surely was not asking the judges’ views on abortion. Nancy Keenan, who has been NARAL’s president some five months, told this column her organization is concerned about “out of touch theological activists” becoming judges. Why seek financial information from them? She said the disclosure information might help identify the “character” of judicial nominees.

Which nominees? “We have lots of nominees that we have great concern about,” said Keenan. “We’re watching all of them.” In short, NARAL has hired private investigators to embark on a fishing expedition to find irregularities in potential selections for the Supreme Court.

This is only going to get uglier and uglier, as both sides seek any piece of information that can be used to derail the nomination of a person who might threaten a particular position (although the most prominent issue is clearly abortion).

And I will say that if the the tables were turned, and the Democrats controlled the White House and Senate, that in the current climate I would expect that groups on the Right to be doing similar things.

The sad fact of the matter is, we are straying further and further from the idea that we should be looking at qualifications and dealing with nominees via reasoned debate. That is a highly lamentable fact.

Filed under: US Politics, Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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