Roxanne's Law rejected
When Melinda Morin's boyfriend kicked her in the stomach for refusing to abort their baby, she lashed back by stabbing and killing him. A Canadian judge found her guilty of manslaughter, and the December ruling spurred debate over a law that would protect women from abortion coercion. The law is called "Roxanne's Law" after Roxanne Fernando, a 24-year-old immigrant whose boyfriend hired two men to help him beat her to death because she refused to abort his child. On Dec. 15, the Canadian House of Commons rejected the bill, which would have made it a criminal offense to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Although the bill placed no restrictions on abortion access, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper opposed the bill because it reopened the abortion debate. Despite the party opposition, the bill's Conservative Party sponsor Rod Bruinooge said that he was encouraged by the support of some Liberal MPs and the support of a majority of female Conservative MPs. "No pregnant woman," he said, "should ever have to choose between protecting herself and protecting her baby."
Deathly Chinese coercion
When a 19-year-old Chinese girl got pregnant and decided to marry her boyfriend, China's family-planning officials seized the woman just a week before her due date because the family-planning policy forbids premarital pregnancies. Officials forced the woman to undergo an abortion that killed both her and her child, according to a December report from Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The report found that China is still using violence and coercion to enforce its strict family-planning policy. Women who are pregnant "out of quota" must submit to abortions, and couples who violate the policy undergo arbitrary detention, beating, and fines. Officials beat and intimidate women who fail to attend the required gynecological exams, which often include forced insertion of intrauterine devices (IUDs), and the government pays relatives and neighbors to report those who violate the policy. In one instance, officials kidnapped the baby of a 23-year-old woman and held the child hostage until the woman consented to sterilization. The policy is arbitrarily and unevenly enforced, the report said, but it estimates that 420 million Chinese men and women are permitted to have only one child.
ACLU and hospitals
Catholic hospitals are fighting to preserve their pro-life identity in the face of pressure by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to perform abortions. In July, the ACLU sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, alleging that religious hospitals violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) by failing to provide "emergency reproductive health care," meaning abortions. The Becket Fund, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty issues, fired back, promising to protect Catholic hospitals and defend pro bono any hospital seeking to defend its conscience provisions. Eric Rassbach, national litigation director for the Becket Fund, told WORLD that the ACLU's interpretation of EMTALA does not match the original intent of the bill.
The controversy surrounds St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. In 2009, the hospital's ethics committee approved an abortion for a woman after doctors determined that her risk of death was 100 percent without it. Bishop Timothy Olmsted has reprimanded the hospital for performing the abortion and decreed that it is no longer a Roman Catholic hospital. So far, the Obama administration has taken no action on the ACLU's July letter, but in December the ACLU sent another letter that said Bishop Olmsted's "drastic and heavy-handed actions send a chilling message."
Anti-CPC rule flounders
The New York City Council has yet to move on a regulation that would require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to post a disclaimer saying they do not provide abortions or contraceptives or make referrals for the services. Baltimore, Md., Montgomery County, Md., and Austin, Texas, have passed similar legislation but New York's proposed legislation is the strictest so far, requiring CPCs to post the disclaimer on their website and ads, and imposing fines of up to $2,500 if CPCs fail to comply. The City Council was supposed to act on the legislation 30 days after a Nov. 9 hearing, but the legislation has yet to leave the Committee on Women's Issues. Jessica Lappin, former Planned Parenthood escort, is among the City Council members sponsoring the legislation.
Carhart moves east
Late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart has fled Nebraska after the state passed a law that bans abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, but Maryland-the state he has turned to now-may not want him either. Days after Carhart began practicing at an abortion center in Germantown, Md., pro-life activists held a press conference and prayer vigil opposing Carhart's abortions. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, called on the vigil's 600 attendees to kneel in prayer to ask for forgiveness and humility in the fight against abortion. Jeff Meister, director of administration and legislation for Maryland Right to Life, said that the Maryland legislature is not receptive to pro-life legislation, but legislators have filed a bill that would take a small step in designating abortion as an "ambulatory surgical procedure," a procedure that takes place outside of a hospital. Referring to the abortion mantra to keep abortion "safe, legal, and rare," Meister said, "In Maryland, we seem to have just the legal part down."
A woman can now get an abortion from a doctor who is miles away-a practice that some pro-life legislators are trying to halt this year. In Iowa, doctors are consulting with pregnant women via videoconferencing technology and then dispensing abortion drugs without examining the patient in person. Joe DeCook, vice president and director of operations at the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called it "abysmal health care" and noted that an abortion can have potentially life-threatening consequences if something goes wrong. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in September that two more women died after taking RU-486, bringing the number of American deaths to eight. Pro-life legislators in both Iowa and Nebraska are introducing legislation to ban the telemedicine abortion practice this year, and the Iowa Board of Medicine has the practice under review.
According to a Medicare rule that went into effect Jan. 1, the federal government will now pay doctors for end-of-life consultations in the Medicare "annual wellness visit"-a change that is similar to the provision in healthcare reform legislation that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin dubbed "death panels." Palin and other pro-life advocates feared that the original provision-removed from the final bill-would lead to bureaucrats rationing healthcare. The original provision would have provided for the end-of-life consultations every five years, but the new rule will pay doctors for the consultations annually.
• May: An Illinois County Court rules that a lawsuit challenging a Planned Parenthood mega-center for violating city zoning laws may proceed.
• August: In Louisiana, a U.S. District judge lifts a temporary restraining order against a Louisiana law that would allow a woman to see an ultrasound of her child before getting an abortion.
• August: Federal court rules against a California elementary school that disciplined a sixth-grade student for wearing a pro-life T-shirt.
• August: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issues a legal opinion saying that Virginia can regulate abortion clinics as it can other outpatient surgical facilities.
• October: The Kansas Supreme Court rules that a 107-count criminal case against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri may proceed.
• December: An Ohio judge rules that Planned Parenthood breached its duties by failing to follow informed-consent laws in the case of a 14-year-old girl seeking abortion.
• December: An Alaska Superior Court rules that Alaska's parental notification law, approved by a voter referendum, can stand.
• Arizona: Strengthens abortion reporting requirements; bans or limits abortion coverage in state exchange and state employee plan; abolishes state funding for abortion except for cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.
• Idaho: Strengthens conscience protections for those refusing to perform abortions.
• Louisiana: Bans or limits abortion coverage in state exchange; provider must offer to show ultrasound description and picture; state can close abortion clinic for any violation of state or federal law; excludes late-term abortionists from medical malpractice protections.
• Mississippi: Bans or limits abortion coverage in state exchange.
• Missouri: Limits abortion coverage in state exchange; requires counseling on fetal pain and abortion coercion; requires abortion provider to say abortion ends life and to offer an ultrasound before abortion.
• Nebraska: Bans abortion after 20 weeks' gestation when unborn child feels pain; requires counseling about abortion risks.
• Oklahoma: Limits medication abortions to physicians; prohibits a woman from suing if she continues a pregnancy because doctor does not inform her of her child's disability; strengthens abortion reporting requirements; bans abortion based on gender of fetus; abortion provider must show and describe ultrasound image to woman; requires clinics to post notices saying woman can't be coerced into abortion.
• South Carolina: Bans or limits abortion in coverage of state employees; requires 24-hour waiting period before abortion; strengthens conscience provisions.
• Tennessee: Bans or limits abortion coverage in state exchange; requires clinics to post notices about abortion coercion; establishes enhanced penalty for murdering pregnant woman.
• Utah: Prohibits self-induced abortion; requires abortion providers to display an ultrasound image if they perform an ultrasound.
• Virginia: Prohibits state funding except in cases of endangerment, rape, and incest.
• West Virginia: Requires providers to offer to display and describe an ultrasound image if they perform an ultrasound.