Legal Abortion in America: 35 36 Years (Updated)

AP, by David Crary / via International Herald Tribune.

On January 22, 1973, 35 36 years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Roe v. Wade, establishing the legal right to abortion for women in America. Since that time there have been about 50 million abortions performed in this country, with an estimated one-third of adult women having had at least one abortion.

Who are these women? The numbers may surprise you…

Half of the roughly 1.2 million U.S. women who have abortions each year are 25 or older. Only about 17 percent are teens. About 60 percent have given birth to least one child prior to getting an abortion.

A disproportionately high number are black or Hispanic. And regardless of race, high abortion rates are linked to hard times.

That’s right, folks. It’s not primarily very young, irresponsible women who are obtaining abortions. Most women seeking abortion are already mothers.

“It doesn’t just happen to young people, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with irresponsibility,” said Miriam Inocencio, president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island. “Women face years and years of reproductive life after they’ve completed their families, and they’re at risk of an unintended pregnancy that can create an economic strain.”

Over the years, the number of abortions has decreased. There were 1.2 million abortions in 2005, which was an 8% decrease from 2000.

Why do some women choose to have abortions?

The Journal of Family Issues published a report earlier this month asserting that women often choose abortion because of their wish to be good parents.

That means women who have no children want the conditions to be right when they do, and women who already are mothers want to care responsibly for their existing children, said the lead author, Rachel Jones, a researcher with the Guttmacher Institute.

“These women believed that it was more responsible to terminate a pregnancy than to have a child whose health and welfare could be in question,” Jones said.

The abortion rate for women living below the poverty line is four times higher than for women in the middle or upper classes.

Of all U.S. women getting abortions, about 54 percent are doing so for the first time, while one-fifth have had at least two previous abortions. Of those over 20, the majority have attended college. Almost a third have been married at some point. About 60 percent have at least one child; one-third have two or more.

“I don’t think most people understand that these are women who have families, who are making a very serious decision about their reproductive health,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The stereotype is that the decision is made lightly. It is not.”

Simply, we need to care for the children we already have, and it is our right to make reproductive decisions in private. Women had abortions long before Roe v. Wade, and if it is overturned, women will continue to have abortions. I would prefer that septic abortion wards remain a thing of the past.

Proper sex education and effective, available birth control are key. Abortion should be safe, legal, available and rare.

UPDATE: Now that George W. Bush is no longer in office, things are being shaken up in the world of personal choice.

The anti-choice crowd is beginning to foam at the mouth, in anticipation of their upcoming loss of political power and influence.  Read about it here.

Obama is expected to repeal the global gag rule, which has impacted women’s health all over the world by cutting off funding for international family planning programs that do counseling about abortion, or provide the procedure.  Read about it here.

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Breaking: Hillary Clinton confirmed by Senate w/Updates

The Senate confirmed President Obama’s selection for Secretary of State by a vote of 94 to 2 (Vitter and DeMint). And as the BBC states:

It is a new chapter in US foreign policy, as both President Obama and Mrs Clinton have already set a new tone for America’s re-engagement with the world, the BBC’s Kim Ghattas in Washington says.

Mrs Clinton has said foreign policy is about pragmatism not rigid ideology.

Next up, of course, is the selection of Senator Clinton’s replacement, by New York’s Governor Paterson. Speculation has been rampant lately that Paterson has been convinced to offer the position to Caroline Kennedy. . .

Gov. Paterson said Tuesday he has finally zeroed in on a candidate to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate – but wants to mull it over a few more days.

Sources close to Paterson say they believe Caroline Kennedy is still the front-runner – despite the fact the governor has recently been talking up Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Hudson).

. . . or not. Paterson is either milking the moment for all the attention he can get, is incredibly careful and thoughtful, or is indecisive in the extreme.

UPDATE 1:

Wednesday added more confusion to the story, as announcements were made that Caroline Kennedy had withdrawn from consideration. Or not. Ah, yes she did. Probably. And at this point it’s not at all clear whether the Governor has made a firm decision on the appointment or any solid guess as to who the appointee might be.

For his part, Mr. Paterson has conducted the selection process much like a business owner placing a want ad. He has encouraged people to reach out to him, invited them in for interviews and asked candidates to fill out a lengthy questionnaire that asked things like whether they had ever been fired from a job or had employed illegal immigrants as household help.

Mr. Paterson’s secrecy only fueled the speculation: He refused to release the questionnaire and he would often not answer when asked whom he had interviewed.

And when he has disclosed information about the process, often the result has been confusion. For example, his aides said on Tuesday that he had interviewed Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, late that afternoon. But earlier in the day Mr. Paterson told reporters he had essentially settled on a choice.

Despite the vagueness of many of his public answers, Mr. Paterson has rarely shied away from the opportunity to speak about the issue. When he was in Washington this week for the inauguration, he was interviewed by MSNBC and CBS and twice by CNN.

He even told reporters at an inaugural ball on Tuesday night that he had spoken with the actress Sharon Stone about the appointment. “Sharon Stone mentioned someone, but I don’t remember who it was,” a tuxedoed Mr. Paterson said.

I was relieved to learn that Sharon Stone wasn’t actually on G0vernor Paterson’s short list for the appointment. The entire circus illustrates the shocking wisdom of Alaskan voters, who several years ago mandated that a vacant Senate seat trigger a special election, rather than leave the decision in the hands of a governor — whether from New York or Illinois.

UPDATE 2:

The media are now reporting that Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name from consideration because of problems with a nanny and taxes. This kind of thing is getting old. One would think that people of wealth who are interested in public service would have worked all this out by now as a bad move, regardless of the morality.

Problems involving taxes and a household employee surfaced during the vetting of Caroline Kennedy and derailed her candidacy for the Senate, a person close to Gov. David A. Paterson said on Thursday, in an account at odds with Ms. Kennedy’s own description of her reasons for withdrawing.

The account emerged 14 hours after Ms. Kennedy announced that she was taking her name out of contention for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and as Mr. Paterson, according to two Democrats told of his thinking, was leaning toward selecting Representative Kirsten E. Gillibrand, an upstate lawmaker in her second term in Congress.

Hard feelings toward Ms. Kennedy were clearly building among the governor’s staff on Thursday, after a dramatic evening in which she was reported to be dropping out, then wavering, then ultimately, shortly after midnight on Thursday, issuing a statement ending her candidacy.

The person close to the governor said Mr. Paterson “never had any intention of picking Kennedy” because he had come to consider her unready for the job. The person did not describe the exact nature or seriousness of the tax and household employee issues.

But other Democratic operatives and people who talked to the governor disputed that account, and said that he had all but decided to select Ms. Kennedy as senator, and that his staff was arranging a press conference for late this week.

An aide to Ms. Kennedy said Thursday that while Ms. Kennedy had not been told for certain that she was the choice, there were strong indications that she would be.

Oy. We’re certainly never going to know for certain what Governor Paterson had in mind relating to Ms. Kennedy, and there still has been no appointment to the Senate.

Another aide to Ms. Kennedy, while not denying there were issues that emerged during her vetting, said that there was nothing that surfaced that would disqualify her from the appointment, and that the Kennedy camp and the governor’s operation had been discussing how to publicly disclose the issues.Virtually no one in state politics on Thursday was willing to make a bet on the appointment the unpredictable governor might make in the end. And the governor and his aides remained shocked at the recent turn of events and stung by criticism of their handling of the process. They have maintained almost complete silence since Wednesday afternoon.

Several people who have spoken to the governor said he had decided on Ms. Kennedy some time ago. A Democrat operative with ties to Mr. Paterson said the governor told Ms. Kennedy last week that she was the choice, but that he would use the next few days to do “a little misdirection to keep the suspense up.”

A person close to the governor adamantly denied that assertion.

“The fiasco of the last 24 hours reinforced why the governor never intended to choose her,” the person said.

There is admittedly a certain entertainment value in the governor’s behavior and farcical fodder for Comedy Central and the late night talk shows. Living on the other side of the continent I can only speculate on the attitude of New Yorkers at this point, but if I was one of them I would be royally pissed off.

Supreme Court refuses to hear Mukasey v. ACLU

The Raw Story

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Mukasey v. ACLU is the final nail in the coffin of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).  An act written so broadly that it would have had the effect of reducing the internet to Romper Room.

Of course, the real purpose of COPA was not protecting children, it was an attempt to censor the content of the internet — for all Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that the Supreme Court will not hear Mukasey v. ACLU, the Bush administration’s attempt to appeal federal court rulings against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), passed by Congress in 1998 after the fall of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

“For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional,” said ACLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel Chris Hansen. “It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.”

If parents are worried about what their little tykes might see or do on the internet, then get the computers out of kids’ bedrooms, and into the family room.  That way everyone knows when little Johnny finds Daddy’s porn collection.  It’s really not that hard to figure out…

COPA, as codified, would have made it an offense punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and/or up to 6 months’ imprisonment for transmitting “any material that is harmful to minors” for commercial purposes on the World Wide Web if not put behind a safeguard such as a requirement for payment or a special access code. Additional fines would have been levied for “intentionally” violating the law.

Material deemed “harmful to minors” under COPA included written, photographic, recorded and otherwise “communicated” material that, based on the average person’s interpretation of “contemporary community standards,” is “obscene” or “designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest.” The law further reads that any material that “depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast,” that “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”

That. Could. Be. Anything.

No-mo Gitmo!

President Barack Obama began overhauling U.S. treatment of terror suspects Thursday, signing orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, shut down secret overseas CIA prisons, review military war crimes trials and ban the harshest interrogation methods.

Now, I was thinking, perhaps it shouldn’t be closed entirely. It would be the ideal facility to house, try, and hold members of the previous administration for international war crimes, crimes against humanity, state-sponsored terrorist acts….