The Supreme Court ruling this week outlawing partial-birth abortions was overshadowed by murders in Virginia — but the decision is a watershed moment in America: Do Women Own Their Bodies or Not? If women do own their bodies — and the decisions made therein — how do you reconcile the partial-birth abortion ban that does not take into consideration the health of the mother?

Are fetuses more important than their mothers? Have judges become doctors?

“It allows [an] intrusion into the relationship between doctors and patients. What would Americans think about that?” Other physicians see the ruling as a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which, among other things, ensures the privacy and security of a patient’s health information.

“If HIPAA prevents me from speaking to family members about medical decisions without permission, how can the federal government insert itself into the decision-making process without invitation from either the physician or the patient?” asked Dr. Lisa Jones, practicing gynecologist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“I feel strongly about the right of a woman to choose and the right of a physician to suggest the most appropriate treatment for a patient without the interference from a nonmedical body,” Jones added.

Dr. Carla Lupi, assistant clinical professor of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, “As a physician, I am aghast that a jurist, with no professional licensure or experience in the care of women facing very complicated medical and personal decisions, should have the power to dictate my medical practice.

These cases are often challenging even for the most seasoned practitioners. “Doctors’ hands should not be tied by categorical legal decisions.”

Will abortion soon be a crime in America? Will women be jailed for aborting fetuses or will the law only go after the doctors?

28 Comments

  1. The decision just means that people will have to convince their state legislatures to make the tough decisions to support partial birth abortion, instead of throwing it off onto the judiciary. If the legislators want to pass laws allowing partial birth abortion in their states, they should stand up for their convictions and start writing legislation.
    I see the killings in Virginia, the blindness to suffering Dafur and inside the killing streets of America, and other forms of cruelty humans inflict on others as being intertwined with this issue, so the news from Virginia didn’t necessary overshadow, but joined in confluence with this news. When we allow people to treat other people inhumanely — no matter what their legal status has been adjudicated by the powers that might be in charge at the time — we open the door to increased violence in our society because we lose the notion that all human life is worthwhile. When we eliminate the value of one set of human beings, we open the possibility that others who might not be as wanted could become the victims of warfare, violence, and any other horrible fate as we have seen throughout history when laws have legally lessened the protections given to any particular group.

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  2. Hi Chris —
    As I wrote this article today I wondered if this is even something a man should be allowed to ponder since men will never have to deal with the issue from the inside of their bodies in the same condition as a woman.
    I also thought about restricting all comments today to only women — to give them fresh voice without any perception or condition of male dominance to try to quiet them — but people can fake gender, being, and purpose on the web so that idea would have been impossible to police.
    The Supreme Court ruling does place foetal rights over the rights of the woman — even if childbirth would kill her — and I don’t see a similar condition of legally mandating one life for another in the other examples of murder and killing you provide.

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  3. Hi David,
    In law school there used to always be professors and students who suggested that men shouldn’t be allowed into the abortion debate.
    I can understand the viewpoint, but the reality is that men and women are both running the political and judicial system, so both genders will always be advocating for both sides.
    I’d suspect that most men are in favor of abortion rights — it makes rational and economic sense for men to keep abortion legal — so blocking them from the argument would result in losing valuable supporters.

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  4. Hi Chris —
    In light of your argument I find it especially telling that on the Supreme Court it was all men who voted to give a foetus rights over that of the woman carrying it — thus reversing a 2000 majority court decision that included two women voting with the majority power:

    In 2000, a court majority that included Justice Sandra Day O’Connor struck down a partial-birth abortion ban that did not include an exception for the woman’s health. Since then, O’Connor left the court, and President Bush picked Samuel Alito to replace her, tipping the court in favor of the ban. Supporters of a woman’s right to an abortion are now deeply concerned that a court with two Bush appointees opposed to abortion rights — Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts — might overturn Roe v. Wade altogether. If that happened, 30 states have laws in place that would ban all abortions within their borders.

    To suggest that gender bias didn’t play a role in the Supreme Court decision doesn’t appear to support the blank facts of who wears the robes.

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  5. David,
    I would like to think that, as a woman, I own my body.
    But this ban on abortion does not make it so.
    I must respectfully disagree with Chris; it is my experience that most men are not in favor of a woman’s right to choose.
    This ban, for me, begs the question of the shoe on the other foot. If men were the ones that had babies, would this ban exist? Why should there be a difference?

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  6. Hi David,
    I didn’t mean to give the impression that the majority men on the Supreme Court are in favor of abortion rights.
    However, baring men from the abortion debate would mean that supporters who by fate of being born male would be silenced. Polling in 2001 showed that men and women equally support abortion rights, according to ABC News.

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  7. Emily —
    In my experience as well most men do not want abortion rights for women. I think it’s the need to evolve and propagate their DNA and to cut them out of the decision-making process wounds their need to keep their lineage intact. It’s also a control issue over a matter that doesn’t really concern them so, in order to be included, they press their interests into the body of the woman to feel important.

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  8. Chris —
    I’ve seen all kinds of crazy abortion rights polls that show one gender over another, genders tied and then genders reversed.
    The one, solid, fact across all the polls is with Republicans. They overwhelmingly want more restrictions and eradication while Democrats and Independents are fine with the status quo or an even greater loosening of restrictions.
    There’s a problem brewing in a country where the majority of the people want one thing and then a false conservative moment grabs power, stakes claims in the law, and then renders decisions behind the protection of lifelong enrobing.

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  9. The fact that, under this ban, a woman whose health is at major risk would be denied an abortion is just downright frightening.

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  10. The only way a woman can own her own body is to never have penetrative sex, never *belong* to another (even for a brief moment in time), never get pregnant and have children, never to get ill and be at the mercy of a male dominated medical system and now a male dominated legislature.

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  11. Hi Emily —
    Yes, that is the terror in the ruling — the birth of a fetus can kill its mother in childbirth with the full protection of the law and the mother has no recourse whatsoever to avoid her killing — and it all reveals the real agenda of the Supreme Court.
    It’s over.
    When Alito was confirmed to replace O’Connor, it was all over.

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  12. Hi David,
    I have to respectfully disagree that opposition to abortion is a control issue for everyone who is opposed.
    But, since we gotten some comments going on the post and some discussion, I’m going to bail out because there are never any hearts or minds won for either side on this issue through these types of debates.
    I used to be pro-choice when I was younger. My mom is a retired OB-GYN nurse and she’s pro-choice. I was confirmed in the United Methodist Church — which supports abortion rights and still get emails from my old church.
    I don’t think there was anything that was said via a political or other debate that changed my mind.

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  13. It would be a lonely existence and not one that many would choose although I know of large groups of feminist lesbians who do believe that and do make that choice – including being treated by female Doctors and Consultants only.
    I so wish there was a way men could go through the whole pregnancy/childbirth and nursing process – I am sure it would change a lot of attitudes.

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  14. Well said, Nicola.
    I think if men experienced menses just once — not even 12 times a year — they’d be much more sensitive to the needs — and the miracle dynamism — of a woman’s body.

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  15. You make an excellent point, Sunny, and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    When the law mandates how a woman interacts with her own body — we aren’t very far from the government condemning bodies and lives it does not believe are worth protecting or preserving.

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  16. Oh dear,
    I thought this conversation would occasionally consider the baby. The partial-birth option amounts to infancide. I don’t remember who on this list said that if men had
    to experience menses, diaper changing, they might change their minds. A baby is
    a gift to most women and men but the others who may decrey this rulling must examine their soul.
    I am a woman who was raped as a younger woman and I gave birth to a beautiful
    child. I’ve not looked back and am supremely happy, that my soul said no.

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  17. I find it a little worrying that the consensus here seems to be that most men don’t approve of womens right to choose. In my experience this is certainly not so.
    First, my opinion: Whilst I am strongly against abortion unless necessary I also believe very strongly that it is the woman’s right to choose. In ALL circumstances.
    I am an adoptee – in the current climate it is unlikely I would be here to write this mail as abortion would probably have been a much easier option than birth and adoption. That probably explains my strong feelings on the matter (I have one son, and another on the way – neither were overly planned but both will be loved and treasured).
    This high court decision is an extremely unsettling ruling – as is any ruling that removes choice from the hands of the citizen involved.
    Should personal choices like these even be within the remit of the legal system?

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  18. Thanks for the insightful comment, Mike.
    I think you’re right on the center of the problem: Arguments and concerns about abortion should be between a woman and her doctor and not the legislature and the courts.

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  19. I am shocked and appalled by the current state of America that people can actually support partial birth “abortion”. We’re talking about a woman here who couldn’t decide whether or not to have the kid for nearly nine months. This isn’t a question of a womans right to choose. If you are going to murder your child, at least have the decency to do so BEFORE you begin to give birth.
    In cases of rape and the health of the mother, it is understandable that some people will want to choose the life of the mother, over the life of the child. This is a valid ethical decision in some circles. But this is not what partial birth “abortion” is about. If you can do this horrid procedure, you can give birth to the child without risk to your life. If you were raped, you should have taken care of things at an earlier point in time.
    Partial birth “abortion” isn’t abortion. Its murder. The child is seconds away from being born, in fact it is mostly outside of the woman in question. A few moments longer, seconds in fact, and you have a healthy child fully outside of the womb.
    It is alright to be pro-choice, but oppose obvious murder.

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  20. I feel there is a crucial element missing to this debate, unless I missed it myself. In the overwhelming majority of cases in which partial-birth abortion is recommended, the women involved had no intention of ever aborting the pregnancy; they wanted to carry the baby to term. It is indeed almost always a case in which the mother’s health is in jeapordy. I think there is a clear misunderstanding amongst most people in this country when it comes to this issue, in that it is assumed, in some way, that there is laziness on the part of the woman, or that there is some sort of indifference on behalf of the women or the doctors involved. As a matter of fact, these women want to have these babies, and would most likely choose to have them if possible.

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