Thursday, April 19, 2007

More bad news.

The Supreme Court majority officially declares: women's health less important than the fact that these 5 white men feel a little queasy when you describe an IDX abortion (by the by: can we all agree not to fill them in on what happens during *most* surgical procedures, lest those are outlawed as well?)

From Amanda at Pandagon, who has an insightful post up:

What is medically recognized:

- 90% of abortions occur in the first trimester.
- Intact dilation and extraction (also known as IDX, or sometimes just D&X) is used in approximately .17% of all abortions.
- It is probable (though definitive data do not exist) that the majority of IDX procedures are performed because of fetal abnormalities.
- IDX, because it delivers a fetus whole, creates less risk of uterine perforation from bone fragments than other forms of late-term abortion.
- IDX has less risk of infection than other forms of late-term abortion, because it takes less time and requires the insertion of fewer instruments into the uterus.
- IDX (like other late-term abortion procedures) can prevent a woman who has found that her fetus is dead or not viable from having to undergo labor and delivery of a dead fetus.
- IDX can allow women whose fetuses are not viable to view and hold their dead babies after delivery.
- Most IDX procedures are performed between 20-24 weeks gestation–that is, within the second trimester, and before fetal viability.
In cases where a fetus has severe hydrocephalus (water on the brain, which can cause a fetuses head to be grotesquely enlarged), the options to a woman may be IDX or a Cesarean section–that is, a three-day outpatient procedure or major surgery, with attendant potential complications.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explicitly opposed the ban.

Shorter medical facts: This ruling will not prevent a single abortion. It will, however, endanger women making difficult decisions about doomed pregnancies, and cut down on the options available to doctors in trying to preserve a woman's life, health, and future ability to have children.

From the NYT editorial:

As far as we know, Mr. Kennedy and his four colleagues responsible for this atrocious result are not doctors. Yet these five male justices felt free to override the weight of medical evidence presented during the several trials that preceded the Supreme Court showdown. Instead, they ratified the politically based and dangerously dubious Congressional claim that criminalizing the intact dilation and extraction method of abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy — the so-called partial-birth method — would never pose a significant health risk to a woman. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found the procedure to be medically necessary in certain cases.

Wait, can we back up again and ask why five men without medical training are making this decision for women and their doctors?

Justice Kennedy actually reasoned that banning the procedure was good for women in that it would protect them from a procedure they might not fully understand in advance and would probably come to regret. This way of thinking, that women are flighty creatures who must be protected by men, reflects notions of a woman’s place in the family and under the Constitution that have long been discredited, said a powerful dissenting opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Stephen Breyer.

And in the full write up from the NYT:

In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg said the majority had provided only “flimsy and transparent justifications” for upholding the law, which she noted “saves not a single fetus from destruction” by banning a single method of abortion. “One wonders how long a line that saves no fetus from destruction will hold in face of the court’s ‘moral concerns,’ ” she said.

Thank God for Justice Ginsburg. Protecting women from making their own decisions? Kennedy is sounding more and more like a pompous and self-righteous misogynist. The NYT's full write up has more, in which Kennedy waxes poetical about the loving bond between mother and child, clearly taxing his imagination to spew paternalistic stereotypes onto women's private medical decisions. But I think I'm going to refrain from quoting him, because it is simply too depressing.


karuna said...

Hey, since you are so opposed to the whole 5 justices making a's an idea! Lets just leave the whole abortion thing up to the states. That's what overturning Roe altogether would do - you know, we could actually VOTE. Oh wait...I don't think you would agree with that. I guess the whole 9 people on a bench making a decision for an entire country only works when the left gets what it wants.

Becky said...

I wouldn't be entirely opposed to that: when South Dakota was informed about what their law would *actually* do, they voted it down. My worry is that abortion becomes a political wedge issue instead of a fact based issue: all the facts point to the lowest abortion rates being found in countries where youth have comprehensive sex ed, contraception is easily available, and abortion is not restricted (Netherlands vs. Brazil).

The particular problem around *this* procedure being decided by anyone *but women, families, and doctors* (justices or the states), is that people don't seem to even know what it is. They hear "partial birth abortion," a term made up by anti-choicers in the '90s, and assume it means abortion at delivery. When in actuality they're performed more in the 12-15 week range, for women who likely *wanted* their pregnancy, and are dealing with either severe fetal abnormalties (ie, *no brain,* spina bifoda, other problems incompatible with surviving birth), or risks to their own life and health. I'd rather have the decision to use this D&X procedure to remove a brainless fetus in the 14th week, than risk my future ability to have a child by using the only procedure left now (which, by the way, is no less "gross" to hear, not unlike *most* surgical procedures. Grossest thing I've ever read was a description of rhinoplasty in Pynchon's novel V).

And this is just bad law. Kennedy's paternalistic "intervention" in women's lives, the decision that this won't affect too many women, so therefore it's somehow ok to compromise the health of those it *does* affect? Not to mention it goes against court rulings in the past, particularly around exceptions for women's health.