Friday, July 29, 2011

Trust women? Not in North Carolina

Last week, I wrote about the good news.

Today, I want to share with you this news about the new law in North Carolina, that is about the most draconian restrictions on women's right to choose abortion I can imagine.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be required to have and view an ultrasound of a fetus and listen to its heartbeat that I knew for my very own personal reasons would be a baby I would never know. And then have to receive state prescribed information and then being asked to wait to have the procedure for 24 hours.

This article says it will change some 27,000 women's minds who will go on to have babies that they had initially believed they were unprepared to raise. One wonders what North Carolina is prepared to do to support those children -- and those mothers -- after those births.

Here's what happened in North Carolina yesterday:

Women will get more information and face new restrictions before having an abortion in North Carolina after the state Senate passed the regulations into law Thursday over Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto.

The Republican-led Legislature completed its veto override when the Senate voted 29-19 to approve the bill requiring women to receive counseling and wait 24 hours before an abortion. The House agreed to the override earlier this week.

The only Republican who voted against the measure when it initially passed the Senate last month, Sen. Stan Bingham of Davidson County, did not vote on Thursday. With one other Republican missing this week, the GOP had just enough votes to override Perdue's veto.

Based on the impact of similar laws in other states, the restrictions would cut the more than 27,000 abortions and result in about 2,900 additional births per year, legislative fiscal analysts said. That will cost taxpayers about $7 million a year, mostly because nearly half of the births would be funded entirely or in part by Medicaid, the health program for the poor.

North Carolina had been one of 16 states that don't require specialized counseling before an abortion. Half of all states require counseling, then a waiting period.

The law prohibits an abortion unless a woman is provided with state-specified information about the physician at least 24 hours in advance. Women also would get information about the likely stage of development of the unborn child, the medical risks of having an abortion and giving birth, and the availability of abortion alternatives.

The new law also requires that an ultrasound be presented along with a chance to hear the fetal heartbeat. Women do have the choice to look away.

Majority Republicans said the measure is designed to give women more information about what happens in an abortion and who is providing it. Social conservatives praised the bill, which also requires a woman consider an offer to see the shape of the fetus and hear a heartbeat.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Progress on Sexual Justice...One Day, One Step At A Time

I've been teaching at Pacific School of Religion all week. It's been a wonderful class of fifteen diverse students, from 7 different faith traditions, ranging in age from 21 to 60. It's been a 20 hour intensive introduction to sexuality issues for religious professionals.

The apartment we've been living in doesn't have TV, so I'm a little behind on my daily news watching. But, it's been a remarkable week for sexual justice.

The Institute of Medicine just recommended in a new report that contraception be available at low cost or free as part of health care insurance plans. And it looks like DHHS will include it as a covered prescription medication.

Leon Panetta just announced tonight that he will announce the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell and that gay and lesbian people will be able to serve openly in the military.

And the President has announced his support for Senator Boxer's new act that will overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

All of these are overdue, from this minister's perspective, and all are still far from the law of the land. Nevertheless, they indicate that despite the rhetoric of those on the right, the arc of the universe is indeed bending towards sexual justice.

Perhaps I should step away from the news more often.

Monday, July 11, 2011

World Population Day -- July 11, 2011

My first job after college was at the Population Institute as a secretary. It was the summer of 1975. I remember writing a piece about how the world population had just hit 2 or maybe 3 billion.

In July 1987, the first World Population Day was celebrated -- the world's population was 5 billion.

Today, the world's population is 6,948,317,241.

It's expected to hit 7 billion on October 31, 2011.

It's hard to grasp that it has more than doubled since I began my working life in the sexual and reproductive health field.

Our understanding of population growth and the needs of the world's environment have grown exponentially since 1975. But some basic facts are still true: too many of the world's women don't have the contraceptive services they need and want to control the number of children they want to have. Too many women are denied basic civil rights, including the right to education and equal employment. The developed world still consumes far too many of the world's resources. The earth has limited ability to sustain uncontrolled population.

Genesis calls us to be stewards of the earth. There's still time for us to do more.