WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down parts of a restrictive
Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to
about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.
The 5-to-3 decision was the court’s most sweeping statement on abortion rights
since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. It applied a skeptical and exacting
version of that decision’s “undue burden” standard to find that the restrictions
in Texas went too far.
The decision on Monday means that similar restrictions in other states are most
likely also unconstitutional, and it imperils many other kinds of restrictions
Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony
M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice
John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
The decision concerned two parts of a Texas law that imposed strict requirements
on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas
Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the
One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for
ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings,
equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have
admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
“We conclude,” Justice Breyer wrote, “that neither of these provisions offers
medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each
imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a
previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and
each violates the federal Constitution.”
Last June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New
Orleans, largely upheld the contested provisions of the Texas law, saying it had
to accept lawmakers’ assertions about the health benefits of abortion
restrictions. The appeals court ruled that the law, with minor exceptions, did
not place an undue burden on the right to abortion.
Justice Breyer said the appeals court’s approach was at odds with the proper
application of the undue-burden standard. The Casey decision, he said, “requires
that courts consider the burdens a law imposes on abortion access together with
the benefits those laws confer.”
In dissent, Justice Thomas said the majority opinion “reimagines the
undue-burden standard,” creating a “benefits-and-burdens balancing test.” He
said courts should resolve conflicting positions by deferring to legislatures.
“Today’s opinion,” Justice Thomas wrote, “does resemble Casey in one respect:
After disregarding significant aspects of the court’s prior jurisprudence, the
majority applies the undue-burden standard in a way that will surely mystify
lower courts for years to come.”
The majority opinion considered whether the claimed benefits of the restrictions
outweighed the burdens they placed on a constitutional right. Justice Breyer
wrote that there was no evidence that the admitting-privileges requirement
“would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment.”
At the same time, he wrote, there was good evidence that the
admitting-privileges requirement caused the number of abortion clinics in Texas
to drop from 40 to 20.
In a second dissent, Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice
Thomas, said the causal link between the law and the closures was unproven.
Withdrawal of state funds, a decline in the demand for abortions and doctors’
retirements may have played a role, Justice Alito wrote.
Justice Breyer wrote that the requirement that abortion clinics meet the
demanding and elaborate standards for ambulatory surgical centers also did more
harm than good.
“Abortions taking place in an abortion facility are safe — indeed, safer than
numerous procedures that take place outside hospitals and to which Texas does
not apply its surgical-center requirements,” he wrote, reviewing the evidence.
“Nationwide, childbirth is 14 times more likely than abortion to result in
death, but Texas law allows a midwife to oversee childbirth in the patient’s own
In dissent, Justice Alito said there was good reason to think that the
restrictions were meant to and did protect women. “The law was one of many
enacted by states in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell scandal, in which a
physician who ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia was convicted for the first
degree murder of three infants who were born alive and for the manslaughter of a
patient,” Justice Alito wrote.
Justice Breyer acknowledged that “Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong.”
“But,” he added, “there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of
regulation would have affected that behavior.”
The clinics challenging the law said it has already caused about half of the
state’s 41 abortion clinics to close. If the contested provisions had taken full
effect, they said, the number of clinics would again be cut in half.
The remaining Texas clinics would have been clustered in four metropolitan
areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. “None is located west
or south of San Antonio, a vast geographic area that is larger than California,”
a brief for the clinics said. An appeals court did allow a partial exemption for
a clinic in McAllen, the brief added, but “imposed limitations on the clinic’s
operational capacity that would severely restrict its ability to provide
Justice Breyer, announcing the majority opinion in the hushed Supreme Court
chamber, said that the requirements in the Texas statute “are not consistent
with the constitutional standard set forth in Casey,” and were, therefore, both
Justice Alito responded with an extended dissent from the bench, a sign of deep
disagreement. “We are supposed to be a neutral court of law,” he said, outlining
what he conceded were “dry and technical” points of legal doctrine he argued
should have precluded the petitioners from presenting the challenge in the first
place. “There is no justification for treating abortion cases differently from
Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed reporting.
Follow The New York Times’s politics and Washington coverage on Facebook and
Twitter, and sign up for the First Draft politics newsletter.
PHILADELPHIA — A doctor who was responsible for cutting the spines of babies
after botched abortions was convicted Monday of three counts of first-degree
murder in a case that became a sharp rallying cry for anti-abortion activists.
The doctor, Kermit Gosnell, 72, operated a clinic in West Philadelphia catering
to poor women that prosecutors called a “house of horrors.”
The case turned on whether the late-term pregnancies Dr. Gosnell terminated
resulted in live births. His lawyer, Jack McMahon, argued that because Dr.
Gosnell injected a drug in utero to stop the heart, the deliveries were
stillbirths, and movements that witnesses testified to observing — a jerked arm,
a cry, swimming motions — were mere spasms.
But after deliberating 10 days, the jury found Dr. Gosnell guilty in the deaths
of victims known as Baby A, Baby C and Baby D. He was found not guilty of
murdering Baby E.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty when the trial moves into
the sentencing phase next Tuesday.
While abortion rights groups argued that Dr. Gosnell operated far outside the
legalities and norms of women’s health care, abortion opponents seized on the
case to raise questions about the ethics of late-term abortions. Put simply,
they asked why a procedure done to a living baby outside the womb is murder, but
destroying a fetus of similar gestation before delivery can be legal.
“What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is
infanticide,” the Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers wrote last week, after
starting an online furor earlier with a column suggesting that the news media
had ignored the case for ideological reasons.
Abortion rights supporters said it was opponents who politicized the trial. What
abortion opponents really sought from the trial, they said, was an acceleration
of restrictions at the state level to effectively end legal abortion.
“Justice was served to Kermit Gosnell today and he will pay the price for the
atrocities he committed,” Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America,
said in a statement. “Anti-choice politicians, and their unrelenting efforts to
deny women access to safe and legal abortion care, will only drive more women to
back-alley butchers like Kermit Gosnell.”
In recent weeks, the case was cited in Congress to support restricting abortions
past 20 weeks of pregnancy, and it was invoked by an anti-abortion political
action committee in radio ads to attack the Democratic candidate for governor of
Virginia, Terry McAuliffe.
Although the trial has not brought new issues or tactics to America’s
long-running abortion wars, it provided an emotional jolt through five weeks of
graphic testimony and an earlier grand jury report.
“This is a visual argument that no one would ever want to have,” said Marjorie
Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to elect women
opposed to abortion. “But if we’re going to have it, let’s go ahead and have it.
What are the limits? What are we as a society willing to forbear?”
She and others predicted greater support for laws banning abortions past 20
weeks, which have been adopted in several states in recent years, on the
disputed theory that fetuses of that age feel pain. Dr. Gosnell was found guilty
of 24 counts of performing an abortion beyond 24 weeks, the limit in
Opponents of the restrictions argue that later abortions are very rare: fewer
than 1.3 percent are past 20 weeks of gestation, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Abortion rights activists say restrictions
before fetal viability, generally 24 weeks, violate the constitutional
protections of Roe v. Wade.
Nonetheless, “the imagery” of later abortion “is very powerful,” said Elizabeth
Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that
supports abortion access. “In 2010 Nebraska banned abortion at 20 weeks
post-fertilization,” she said. “That bill was seen as the type of bill that was
going to catch fire across the country. It did.”
Dr. Gosnell was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a
41-year-old patient, Karnamaya Mongar, who died of an overdose of sedatives.
Among lesser charges, he was found guilty of 211 counts of not waiting 24 hours
after consulting with a patient before performing an abortion.
Activists on both sides debated whether the deplorable conditions at Dr.
Gosnell’s clinic — including broken equipment, bloodstained recovery chairs and
an untrained staff giving anesthesia and other drugs — could be found at other
Anti-abortion groups cited the case to press for more regulations of clinics.
“By pulling back the secrecy that cloaks this industry that preys on women’s
misery, we have a real agenda moving forward,” said Charmaine Yoest, the
president of Americans United for Life, which pushes for stricter clinic rules.
But abortion rights groups attacked the regulations as a backdoor route to shut
clinics by requiring costly but medically unneeded upgrades, like wider hallways
and bigger closets.
“What’s going on with these laws is really about the agenda of having abortion
eventually made illegal again,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for
Reproductive Rights in Washington, which has challenged the laws in court. “And
if that were to happen, unfortunately you’d have a lot more Gosnells out there.”
The scathing grand jury report in 2011 on Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s
Medical Society, on Lancaster Avenue, detailed how despite complaints and
malpractice suits, no inspector had visited in 16 years. The clinic was raided
only after a tip that it operated as an illegal prescription mill. A month after
the report, Gov. Tom Corbett fired six employees of the Health and State
In the witness box, clinic employees said live births occurred regularly, and
they believed Dr. Gosnell’s explanation for snipping necks with surgical
scissors — to “ensure fetal demise” — was accepted practice in late-term
abortions. An abortion doctor who testified for the prosecution said such
practice was unheard of.
One witness, Steven Massof, testifying under a plea agreement to avoid
first-degree murder charges, instructed jurors to feel the backs of their own
necks and said, “It’s like a beheading.”
Another former employee, Adrienne Moton, sobbed as she described the death of
Baby A, aborted when his teenage mother was about 29 weeks pregnant. Ms. Moton
was so upset she took a cellphone photograph of him, which was shown in court.
She said Dr. Gosnell had joked that the baby was big enough to walk to a bus
Ms. Moton, who also testified under a plea agreement, said she cut the neck of
Baby D, who was delivered into a toilet while its mother, given a large dose of
a drug to dilate the cervix, waited for Dr. Gosnell to arrive.
Another clinic worker said she followed Dr. Gosnell’s instructions and cut the
neck of Baby C after it moved an arm. The doctor told her was an “involuntary
Dr. Gosnell was originally charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, but
Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart of Common Pleas Court earlier threw out three other
cases of infants said to have been born alive, known as Baby B, Baby F and Baby
Several weeks into the trial, which began March 18, anti-abortion activists and
some conservative commentators accused the national news media of skipping it, a
charge amplified across social media.
On April 15, President Obama’s spokesman was asked if he was following the
trial. “The president is aware” of the case, said Jay Carney, the White House
Even as reporters from national newspapers arrived in Courtroom 304 of the
Criminal Justice Center, a blog war continued between abortion-rights
supporters, who had written of Dr. Gosnell’s abuses from the time of his
indictment, and conservatives, who continued to fault broadcast television for a
On Monday, there were 29 reporters in the courtroom and a row of television
crews on the sidewalk.
PHILADELPHIA — They are known as Baby Boy A, Baby C, Baby D and Baby E, all of
whom prosecutors call murdered children and the defense calls aborted fetuses —
the very difference in language encapsulating why anti-abortion advocates are so
passionate about drawing attention to the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, which
wrapped up here on Monday with summations by both sides.
In five weeks of testimony, jurors were told that Dr. Gosnell, 72, had performed
late-term abortions by injecting a drug to stop the heart of the fetus, but that
when one jerked an arm, cried or drew breath outside the womb, its spinal cord
was cut with surgical scissors.
To anti-abortion leaders, the accounts have the power to break through decades
of hardened positions in the abortion wars, not just because of the graphic
details but because they raise the philosophical issue of why an abortion
procedure performed in utero is legal, but a similar act a few minutes later,
outside the womb, is considered homicide.
The distinction “is maybe a 15-minute or half-hour time frame and 10 inches of
physical space,” said Michael Geer, the president of the Pennsylvania Family
Institute, an anti-abortion group. “I think it’s going to resurrect a debate
about the humanity of the unborn child.”
Abortion rights groups have a very different view. They say that Dr. Gosnell was
a rogue practitioner, and that if abortion is further restricted, more women
will be driven to clinics like his, which prosecutors called a “house of
Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a
conservative legal organization in Washington, said, “This case in the end is
going to be viewed as monumental, no matter what the verdict is.”
Last week, Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart of the Court of Common Pleas threw out
three of seven first-degree murder charges against Dr. Gosnell. The doctor’s
defense lawyer, Jack J. McMahon, argued Monday that none of the remaining four
cases had resulted in live births.
Because the women were given injections of the drug digoxin, which causes “fetal
demise,” Mr. McMahon argued, any postdelivery movements were involuntary spasms.
“Every single piece of scientific evidence in this case has shown stillbirth,”
But Edward Cameron, an assistant district attorney, countered that testimony
showed Dr. Gosnell did not always use digoxin and that it did not always work as
intended. He quoted a former clinic worker with medical school training but no
doctor’s license who testified that the drug “wasn’t giving the desired effect,
the heart was always beating.”
The prosecutor cited Pennsylvania law stating that if a baby delivered during an
abortion “shows any sign of life, it’s considered alive — a heartbeat,
breathing, a cry, movement.”
The jury will now make that determination in the cases, including that of Baby
Boy A, whom clinic workers testified Dr. Gosnell joked was big enough “to walk
Baby D, a clinic worker testified, was delivered into a toilet by a woman
waiting for Dr. Gosnell and it appeared to make swimming motions before one of
the doctor’s assistants pulled it out and cut its neck.
Two workers said they heard Baby E crying before Dr. Gosnell cut its spine with
scissors. The prosecutor quoted a worker: “It made noises, a whine like my
Mr. McMahon also cited the trial testimony, in which the clinic worker
acknowledged she did not know for sure if Baby E was born alive. Eight workers
from the clinic, the Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia, have pleaded
guilty to lesser charges in the case, including Dr. Gosnell’s wife, Pearl, a
cosmetologist who helped perform abortions.
If convicted, Dr. Gosnell could face the death penalty.
The case became a cause célèbre when anti-abortion activists complained that the
mainstream news media were ignoring it for ideological reasons. It has since
been widely covered, and every seat in the courtroom was taken on Monday.
Anti-abortion campaigners have seized on the trial because it highlights
late-term abortions performed after fetal viability. The same public opinion
polls that for decades have shown that a majority of Americans support abortion
also show that most of them want it banned in certain cases.
Abortion opponents have leveraged these mixed feelings in recent years to lobby
at the state level to restrict the procedure. Nine states have banned most
abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy. Last month, two states went further:
Arkansas banned abortion after 12 weeks and North Dakota beyond about 6 weeks,
when a fetal heartbeat is “detectable.” Abortion rights groups said both limits
would be found unconstitutional in federal court.
Though late-term abortions are central to the Gosnell case, they are extremely
rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 92 percent of
abortions are performed before 14 weeks, with 1.3 percent beyond 20 weeks.
“No woman carries their child to six, seven, eight months and then one day
decides they don’t want to become a parent,” said Ilyse Hogue, the president of
Naral Pro-Choice America. “These are terrible, tragic situations where families
have to make difficult choices with their doctors. I think most Americans
believe that’s where they belong.”
To abortion rights groups, if abortion is further restricted, desperate women
will be forced to seek providers like Dr. Gosnell, who is also accused of
performing 24 abortions beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy, the limit in Pennsylvania.
“Restrictions really work to hinder access to safe abortion,” said Dayle
Steinberg, the president of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania. “It
only increases the number of economically disadvantaged women who find
themselves in extreme circumstances and they turn to unsafe options for care.”
Dr. Gosnell is also accused of third-degree murder in the death of a 41-year-old
patient from Virginia, who visited his clinic after being turned away by three
clinics closer to her home, according to testimony by a daughter of the woman.
Mr. McMahon said Dr. Gosnell’s staff members who pleaded guilty did so out of
fear of the district attorney’s office, which he accused of creating “a tsunami
of hype” in a grand jury report and in the news media about Dr. Gosnell’s
practices. To counter that, he showed slides of a waiting room, hallway and
procedure rooms at the defunct clinic that looked scrubbed and clean.
The prosecution, for its turn, rolled in a filthy procedure table and broken
equipment removed from the clinic. Mr. Cameron, the assistant district attorney,
brandished a stained ultrasound probe with unconcealed disgust.
The jury was expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday.
It is no secret that Mitt Romney and his running-mate,
Representative Paul Ryan, are opponents of abortion rights. When Mr. Ryan was
asked at last week’s debate whether voters who support abortion rights should be
worried if the Romney-Ryan ticket were elected, he essentially said yes.
They would depart slightly from the extremist Republican Party platform by
allowing narrow exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the woman. Beyond
that, they would move to take away a fundamental right that American women have
had for nearly 40 years.
Mr. Romney has called for overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling
that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to make her own childbearing
decisions and to legalized abortion nationwide. He has said that the issue
should be thrown back to state legislatures. The actual impact of that radical
rights rollback is worth considering.
It would not take much to overturn the Roe decision. With four of the nine
members of the Supreme Court over 70 years old, the next occupant of the White
House could have the opportunity to appoint one or more new justices. If say,
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest member, retired and Mr. Romney named a
replacement hostile to abortion rights, the basic right to abortion might well
The result would turn back the clock to the days before Roe v. Wade when
abortion was legal only in some states, but not in others. There is every
indication that about half the states would make abortion illegal within a year
of Roe being struck down, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The Center for
Reproductive Rights, which challenges abortion restrictions around the country,
puts the number at 30 states. For one thing, abortion bans already on the books
in some states would suddenly kick in. And some Republican-controlled state
legislatures would outlaw abortion immediately.
Even with Roe and subsequent decisions upholding abortion rights, more than half
the states have enacted barriers like mandatory waiting periods, “counseling”
sessions lacking a real medical justification; parental consent or notification
laws; and onerous clinic “safety” rules intended to drive clinics out of
Mr. Romney is a vocal supporter of this continuing drive in the states and in
Congress to limit the constitutional right, even without overturning Roe. To a
large degree, the anti-abortion forces have succeeded. In 1982, there were about
2,900 providers nationwide; as of 2008, there were less than 1,800. In 97
percent of the counties that are outside of metropolitan areas, there are no
abortion providers at all.
We do not need to guess about the brutal consequences of overturning Roe. We
know from our own country’s pre-Roe history and from the experience around the
world. Women desperate to end a pregnancy would find a way to do so. Well-to-do
women living in places where abortion is illegal would travel to other states
where it is legal to obtain the procedure. Women lacking the resources would
either be forced by the government and politicians to go through with an
unwanted or risky pregnancy, attempt to self-abort or turn to an illegal — and
potentially unsafe — provider for help. Women’s health, privacy and equality
would suffer. Some women would die.
Mr. Romney knows this, or at least he used to. Running for the United States
Senate in Massachusetts in 1994 against Edward Kennedy, Mr. Romney spoke of a
young woman, a close relative, who died years before as result of complications
from an illegal abortion to underscore his now-extinct support for Roe v. Wade.
In a report in Salon last year, Justin Elliott, a reporter for ProPublica, found
that when the young woman passed away, her parents requested that donations be
made in her honor to Planned Parenthood. That’s the same invaluable
family-planning group that Mr. Romney has pledged to defund once in the White
A wave of mergers between Roman Catholic and secular hospitals is threatening to
deprive women in many areas of the country of ready access to important
reproductive services. Catholic hospitals that merge or form partnerships with
secular hospitals often try to impose religious restrictions against abortions,
contraception and sterilization on the whole system.
This can put an unacceptable burden on women, especially low-income women and
those who live in smaller communities where there are fewer health care options.
State regulators should closely examine such mergers and use whatever powers
they have to block those that diminish women’s access to medical care.
Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, for example, recently turned down a bid by a
Catholic health system to merge with a public hospital that is the chief
provider of indigent care in Louisville. He cited concerns about loss of control
of a public asset and restrictions on reproductive services.
The nation’s 600 Catholic hospitals are an important part of the health care
system. They treat one-sixth of all hospital patients, and are sometimes the
only hospital in a small community. They receive most of their operating income
from public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid and from private
insurers, not from the Catholic Church. They are free to deliver care in accord
with their religious principles, but states and communities have an obligation
to make sure that reproductive care remains available. This should be a central
goal for government officials who have a role in approving such consolidations.
As Reed Abelson wrote in a recent report in The Times, these mergers are driven
by shifts in health care economics. Some secular hospitals are struggling to
survive and eager to be rescued by financially stronger institutions, which in
many cases may be Catholic-affiliated. By one estimate, 20 mergers between
Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals have been announced over the past three
years and more can be expected.
The 2009 “Ethical and Religious Directives” issued by the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops warns that Catholic institutions should avoid
entering into partnerships “that would involve them in cooperation with the
wrongdoing of other providers.” Catholic hospitals have refused to terminate
pregnancies, provide contraceptive services, offer a standard treatment for
ectopic pregnancies, or allow sterilization after caesarean sections (women
seeking tubal ligations are then forced to have a second operation elsewhere,
exposing them to additional risks).
In one case, the sole hospital in a rural area in southeastern Arizona announced
in 2010 that it would partner with an out-of-state Catholic health system, and
would immediately adhere to Catholic directives that forbid certain reproductive
health services. As a result, a woman whose doctors wanted to terminate a
pregnancy to save her life had to be sent 80 miles away for treatment. A
coalition of residents, physicians and activists campaigned against the merger
and it was called off before it was finalized.
Over the past 15 years, MergerWatch, an advocacy group based in New York City,
has helped block or reverse 37 mergers and reached compromises in 22 others that
saved at least some reproductive services. As mergers become more common, state
and local leaders would be wise to block proposals that restrict health
The New York Times
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
lawmakers in Virginia changed course on another piece of conservative
legislation on Thursday, with the State Senate voting to suspend consideration
of a bill that would define life as beginning at conception.
It was an abrupt reversal for Republicans, and came hours after a Senate
committee voted to approve the legislation for consideration by the full body.
There was broad speculation that Gov. Bob McDonnell was behind the move.
“This is a major disgrace for the Republican leadership,” said Don Blake, who
runs the Virginia Christian Alliance, a conservative group that backed the bill.
Republicans should have had the votes to pass the bill, he said, and the fact
that they opted to suspend it raised suspicions of the governor’s involvement.
“Pro-life groups are concerned that the governor had a hand in this,” Mr. Blake
said. A spokesman for Mr. McDonnell, a Republican who is mentioned as a possible
candidate for vice president, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
The rapid-fire procedural maneuvering came one day after Mr. McDonnell ordered
Republicans in the House of Delegates to soften a bill requiring a vaginal
ultrasound before an abortion. The new version, which requires a noninvasive
abdominal ultrasound, appeared aimed at defusing a mounting controversy over the
bill that included spoofs on television shows.
The stalling of the legislation on Thursday also illustrated the divisions among
Republicans over the bill. Opponents say it would confer legal status from the
moment of conception and, in the process, cause huge legal uncertainties and
lead to the banning of abortion. It would quickly be challenged in court, they
The eight members of the party on the Education and Health Committee approved
the bill on a party-line vote in the morning, only to have it sent back several
hours later with orders that it not be considered again this legislative season,
scheduled to end in two weeks.
The measure, known as the personhood bill, could be revived in the next session,
which opens early next year — timing that critics of the bill point out falls
safely outside the electoral cycle.
“This takes it off the late-night shows,” said one Democratic aide who asked not
to be identified by name because she was not authorized to speak publicly on the
Delegate Bob Marshall, the bill’s sponsor, said he had approached the governor
about the bill once at a reception, but did not get a positive response. Still,
he had fresh hopes for it, after it passed the committee Thursday. “This could
not have happened without the consent of the leadership,” he said.
State Senator Richard L. Saslaw, a Democrat who made the motion to shelve the
legislation, said that he did not know whether Mr. McDonnell had intervened, but
that the bill was far enough to the right that the governor would probably not
have relished the prospect of signing it.
“I’m shocked that it got out of the House,” he said. “The people of Mississippi
had the good sense to vote that thing down. What does that say?”
February 18, 2012
The New York Times
By ROSS DOUTHAT
AMID the sound and fury of the latest culture-war battles —
first over breast cancer dollars and Planned Parenthood, and then over the White
House’s attempt to require that religious employers cover contraception and
potential abortifacients — it’s easy to forget that there is at least some
common ground in American politics on sex, pregnancy, marriage and abortion.
Even the most pro-choice politicians, for instance, usually emphasize that they
want to reduce the need for abortion, and make the practice rare as well as safe
and legal. Even the fiercest conservative critics of the White House’s
contraception mandate — yes, Rick Santorum included — agree that artificial
birth control should be legal and available. And both Democrats and Republicans
generally agree that the country would be better off with fewer pregnant
teenagers, fewer unwanted children, fewer absent fathers, fewer out-of-wedlock
Where cultural liberals and social conservatives differ is on the means that
will achieve these ends. The liberal vision tends to emphasize access to
contraception as the surest path to stable families, wanted children and low
abortion rates. The more direct control that women have over when and whether
sex makes babies, liberals argue, the less likely they’ll be to get pregnant at
the wrong time and with the wrong partner — and the less likely they’ll be to
even consider having an abortion. (Slate’s Will Saletan has memorably termed
this “the pro-life case for Planned Parenthood.”)
The conservative narrative, by contrast, argues that it’s more important to
promote chastity, monogamy and fidelity than to worry about whether there’s a
prophylactic in every bedroom drawer or bathroom cabinet. To the extent that
contraceptive use has a significant role in the conservative vision (and
obviously there’s some Catholic-Protestant disagreement), it’s in the context of
already stable, already committed relationships. Monogamy, not chemicals or
latex, is the main line of defense against unwanted pregnancies.
The problem with the conservative story is that it doesn’t map particularly well
onto contemporary mores and life patterns. A successful chastity-centric culture
seems to depend on a level of social cohesion, religious intensity and shared
values that exists only in small pockets of the country. Mormon Utah, for
instance, largely lives up to the conservative ideal, with some of America’s
lowest rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and abortions. But
many other socially conservative regions (particularly in the South) feature
higher rates of unwed and teenage parenthood than in the country as a whole.
Liberals love to cite these numbers as proof that social conservatism is a flop.
But the liberal narrative has glaring problems as well. To begin with, a lack of
contraceptive access simply doesn’t seem to be a significant factor in unplanned
pregnancy in the United States. When the Alan Guttmacher Institute surveyed more
than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001, it found that
only 12 percent cited problems obtaining birth control as a reason for their
pregnancies. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of
teenage mothers found similar results: Only 13 percent of the teens reported
having had trouble getting contraception.
At the same time, if liberal social policies really led inexorably to fewer
unplanned pregnancies and thus fewer abortions, you would expect “blue” regions
of the country to have lower teen pregnancy rates and fewer abortions per capita
than demographically similar “red” regions.
But that isn’t what the data show. Instead, abortion rates are frequently higher
in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more
conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws,
waiting periods, and so on. “Safe, legal and rare” is a nice slogan, but liberal
policies don’t always seem to deliver the “rare” part.
What’s more, another Guttmacher Institute study suggests that liberal states
don’t necessarily do better than conservative ones at preventing teenagers from
getting pregnant in the first place. Instead, the lower teenage birth rates in
many blue states are mostly just a consequence of (again) their higher abortion
rates. Liberal California, for instance, has a higher teen pregnancy rate than
socially conservative Alabama; the Californian teenage birth rate is only lower
because the Californian abortion rate is more than twice as high.
These are realities liberals should keep in mind when tempted to rail against
conservatives for rejecting the intuitive-seeming promise of “more condoms,
fewer abortions.” What’s intuitive isn’t always true, and if social
conservatives haven’t figured out how to make all good things go together in
post-sexual-revolution America, neither have social liberals.
At the very least, American conservatives are hardly crazy to reject a model for
sex, marriage and family that seems to depend heavily on higher-than-average
abortion rates. They’ve seen that future in places like liberal, cosmopolitan
New York, where two in five pregnancies end in abortion. And it isn’t a pretty
The New York Times
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
turned a skeptical eye toward conservative-backed measures across the country
Tuesday, rejecting an anti-labor law in Ohio, an anti-abortion measure in
Mississippi and a crackdown on voting rights in Maine.
Even in Arizona, voters were close to turning out of office the chief architect
of that state’s controversial anti-immigration law. State Senator Russell
Pearce, a Republican power broker and a former sheriff’s deputy known for his
uncompromising style, came close to conceding the race Tuesday with a look of
shock on his face.
“If being recalled is the price for keeping one’s promises, then so be it,” he
said. His opponent had declared victory. Mr. Pearce, the president of the
Senate, was a hero to the Tea Party movement, and apart from his
anti-immigration efforts, he had introduced numerous bills to nullify federal
Taken together, Tuesday’s results could breathe new life into President Obama’s
hopes for his re-election a year from now. But the day was not a wholesale
victory for Democrats. Even as voters in Ohio delivered a blow to Gov. John R.
Kasich, a Republican, and rejected his attempt to weaken collective bargaining
for public employees, they approved a symbolic measure to exempt Ohio residents
from the individual mandate required in Mr. Obama’s health care law.
And while voters in Mississippi, one of the most conservative states, turned
away a measure that would have outlawed all abortions and many forms of
contraception and had drawn conservative support from members of both parties,
they tightened their voting laws to require some from of government-approved
identification. Democrats had opposed the requirement, saying it was a thinly
disguised attempt to intimidate voters of color.
In Maine, where Republicans recently had ended same-day registration at polling
places, voters decided to restore the practice, which Democrats support.
Despite the anger at Washington, voters did not appear to be in a
throw-the-bums-out frame of mind at the city and state levels. In Philadelphia,
Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, won re-election, as did Mayor Greg Ballard, a
Republican, in Indianapolis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, in
Baltimore. In Phoenix, Greg Stanton, a Democrat, was the winner while in San
Francisco, Edwin M. Lee, the interim mayor, seemed poised to become that city’s
first mayor of Chinese descent.
Steve Beshear, the Democratic governor of Kentucky, was re-elected. In
Mississippi, Phil Bryant will succeed Gov. Haley Barbour, a fellow Republican,
who was prevented by term limits from running for reelection.
And in something of a surprise, an attempt by Republicans in Virginia to take
over the state Senate — and thereby take complete control of the state
government — appeared stalled. In one district, the final vote showed the
Republican candidate with an edge of fewer than 100 votes, putting the party
within striking distance of a 20-20 tie with Democrats in the Senate. When the
Senate is deadlocked, the lieutenant governor — a Republican — casts the
But in Iowa, Republicans failed in their attempt to win control of the State
Senate. Had they won a special election there, they would have likely been able
to pass numerous measures, including a ban on same-sex marriage, that had been
blocked by Democrats.
In one of the biggest surprises of the night was Mississippi’s rejection of a
far-reaching and stringent anti-abortion initiative known as the “personhood”
amendment, which had inspired a ferocious national debate.
Initiative 26 would have amended the state Constitution to define life “to
include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the
functional equivalent thereof.”
Supporters, including evangelical Christians, said it would have stopped the
murder of innocent life and sent a clarion moral call to the world. They said
they expected that passage in Mississippi would have built support for similar
laws in other states.
Opponents, led by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union,
said the proposal would have outlawed all abortions, including in cases of rape
and incest and when the mother’s life was in danger; would have barred
morning-after pills and certain contraception such as IUD’s; and could have
limited in vitro fertility procedures.
“The message from Mississippi is clear,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL
Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “An amendment that allows politicians
to further interfere in our personal, private medical decisions, including a
woman’s right to choose safe, legal abortion, is unacceptable.”
The push for a personhood amendment split the country’s anti-abortion movement.
Traditional leaders including the Roman Catholic bishops and National Right to
Life opposed it on strategic grounds, fearing it would lead to a United States
Supreme Court defeat and set back to their efforts to chip away at abortion
Governor Barbour is a strong opponent of abortion rights but expressed
skepticism about the amendment’s wording
“It’s unnecessarily ambiguous,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday. He also criticized the
strategy of sending it to voters rather than to the Legislature — a blunder he
attributed to people in Colorado, who wrote the measure — and said it would not
be a good test case with which to try to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme
Court decision that legalized abortion. Nonetheless, Mr. Barbour said, he had
supported the measure because he believes that life begins at conception.
Erik Eckholm and Kirk Johnson
has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 9, 2011
An earlier version of this article mistakenly said
there were governor’s races
in Louisiana and West Virginia;
In three new rulings, federal judges in different states have acted to block
immediate enforcement of measures that restrict abortion rights and women’s
access to affordable contraception, lifesaving cancer screenings and treatment
for sexually transmitted diseases. These rulings are important victories for
women’s health and reproductive rights.
On June 24, Judge Tanya Pratt of the Federal District Court in Indianapolis
issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of a new Indiana law
banning the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide
essential health services to low-income women. The mean-spirited law is part of
a Republican-led national campaign to end public financing for Planned
Parenthood. The Obama administration promptly told Indiana, and other states
weighing similar legislation, that the measure violated federal law by imposing
impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid beneficiaries to choose
health care providers. Judge Pratt agreed with that assessment in her decision.
In another ruling six days later, a federal trial judge in South Dakota issued a
preliminary injunction blocking, on constitutional grounds, a deeply intrusive
state law requiring women to wait at least 72 hours after an initial doctor’s
visit before terminating a pregnancy — the longest waiting period in the nation.
This law also requires that women seeking abortions endure counseling at
so-called pregnancy help centers run by antiabortion activists with the aim of
“Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact
that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a
human being,” Judge Karen Schreier wrote in her decision.
On July 1, Judge Carlos Murguia, a federal district judge in Kansas, blocked
immediate enforcement of a new Kansas licensing law and health department
regulations imposing extensive, medically unnecessary requirements on the
state’s three remaining abortion providers — like mandating 50 square feet of
storage space for janitorial supplies — with the obvious goal of shutting them
While these rulings are preliminary, each is a determination that enforcing the
law would cause irreparable harm and that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail
at trial. They do not, however, address other threats to women’s health. Those
include the slashing of state support for family-planning services by governors
like Chris Christie of New Jersey, and attacks from Congress like the bill
Republicans pushed through the House in May that would use the nation’s tax
system as a weapon to end abortion insurance coverage in the private market.
Still, these rulings serve as a reminder that courts have a vital role to play
in blocking the extreme anti-abortion, anti-family-planning movement
accelerating in the states and in Washington.
The New York Times
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
— The emergence of abortion as the last and most contentious of the issues that
held up the budget deal reached Friday night highlighted the enduring influence
of social conservatives within the Republican Party even at a time when the Tea
Party movement’s focus on fiscal austerity is getting most of the attention.
The main abortion-related provisions sought by Republicans were stripped out,
apparently in return for deeper cuts in federal spending. But the intense push
by abortion opponents, including Representatives Christopher H. Smith of New
Jersey, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Mike Pence of Indiana, sent a signal that
Republicans intend to keep social issues on the front burner as Congress moves
on to a further series of battles.
The abortion opponents lost on their effort to restrict money going to Planned
Parenthood and other abortion providers as part of the budget deal. But they
succeeded in winning agreement for a separate vote on that issue next week —
Senate Democrats are sure to defeat it — and in keeping in the budget deal a
provision that would restrict abortion financing in Washington.
The social conservatives established that they have a welcome ear in Speaker
John A. Boehner of Ohio, who has won awards from opponents of abortion rights
and during the debate over health care of provisions was a visible supporter of
preventing federal money from going to abortion providers like Planned
Parenthood. (Federal law already prohibits the use of federal dollars for
The main restrictions Republicans had sought were included in the first spending
bill passed by the House, in February. They had the backing, with varying
degrees of intensity, not just of Republicans identified primarily as social
conservatives but also of many fiscal conservatives. While the party ultimately
chose not to close down the government over its position on abortion, social
conservatives were heard more clearly on the issue than they have been since the
November election focused Washington on cutting spending.
“The life issue is important to a lot of us,” said Representative Steve Chabot
of Ohio, who has been very involved in anti-abortion measures in the past. “For
some, people, for example, abortion is more important. For some people, spending
is more important. For me, it would be hard to say one over the other.”
Republicans had sought to take away federal money for family planning for poor
women and give that money instead to states, to forbid the District of Columbia
from using its tax dollars to help the poor obtain abortions, and to end family
planning subsidies to some international groups.
In one sense, the flashpoint nature of the battle presented both parties with an
opportunity to energize their bases.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, stressed
repeatedly on Friday that his party was committed to defending abortion rights,
and he characterized the fight as one over women’s health. Equally, House
Republicans portrayed themselves as determined to stand by their principles.
But the high-profile fight held political peril for Republicans in particular
when it comes to appealing to women and the broad center of American politics.
In polls taken this year and last by The New York Times/CBS News, when Americans
were asked to name the most important problem facing the country, fewer than 1
percent cited abortion. In December, when respondents were asked how available
abortions should be to those who seek them, 36 percent said generally available,
40 percent said available with limits, and 20 percent said abortions should not
The risks were not lost on Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who
favors abortion rights. “Senator Collins does not believe this rider belongs on
this bill,” said a spokesman, Kevin Kelley, in an e-mail before the deal was
announced. “She believes it is the height of irresponsibility for Congress to
jeopardize pay for our dedicated troops, who are serving in harm’s way in three
wars, because of a policy debate that can occur later this year.”
Other Republicans, including Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, also urged the
party not to sacrifice the budget deal to make a point on the abortion issue.
Few Republicans wanted to be seen as shutting down the government over the
issue, which may be why House freshmen insisted that the issue was irrelevant to
the budget battle, even as aides to lawmakers negotiated them down to the wire.
“This is not about policy riders,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador of
Idaho, echoing almost word for word seven other House Republicans and Mr.
Boehner as well. “It’s about spending.”
America has seen this play before. Over the nearly four decades since the
Supreme Court affirmed women’s abortion rights, Congress has worked to chip away
at them, often through measures like those on the table in the final stages of
the budget battle. Those efforts have largely been led by Republicans, but not
exclusively; it was Democrats who favored restrictions on abortion who came
close to unraveling the 2009 health care overhaul.
While the 87 freshmen Republicans in the House ran on a platform of containing
federal spending, and while some Republicans, like Gov. Mitch Daniels of
Indiana, have suggested de-emphasizing social issues until the nation’s fiscal
problems can be addressed, the desire among social conservatives to curb
abortion rights has never gone away.
While few of the measures Republicans sought would cut spending — in the case of
funds used by Planned Parenthood, it would simply move them — Republicans
repeatedly said supporting family planning groups was a waste of taxpayer funds.
“This has been an ongoing struggle for decades,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research
group. “But in this particular context, there is a different twist. It is one
thing to be deeply opposed to a policy and look at every vehicle you can for
changing it. It’s another when you frame the entire narrative around the debt
crisis we face.”
Using the amendment process to pull away at abortion rights has a history that
dates back almost as far as Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973. In 1976, the
House passed the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortion from health care
services provided through Medicaid.
The amendment has been tacked on to annual appropriations bills ever since.
Under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, health maintenance organizations gained
the right to refuse to cover counseling or referrals for abortion on moral or
religious grounds. The law restricting the use of District of Columbia funds for
abortions, known as the Dornan Amendment, was first introduced in 1988.
In the final hour, another social policy amendment of sorts, one that would
finance a school voucher program in the District of Columbia near and dear to
Mr. Boehner, went into the bill.
February 18, 2011
The New York Times
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday rescinded most of
a 2008 rule that granted sweeping protections to health care providers who
opposed abortion, sterilization and other medical procedures on religious or
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the rule,
issued in the last days of the Bush administration, could “negatively impact
patient access to contraception and certain other medical services.”
Federal laws make clear that health care providers cannot be compelled to
perform or assist in an abortion, Ms. Sebelius said. The Bush rule went far
beyond these laws and upset the balance between patients’ rights to obtain
health care and “the conscience rights of health care providers,” she added.
The Obama administration retained and updated part of the 2008 rule that
established procedures to investigate complaints from health care workers who
believe they have been subjected to discrimination or coercion because of their
“religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
Although the Bush rule is still on the books, the Obama administration has not
enforced it. Eight states and several organizations filed a lawsuit in Federal
District Court in Connecticut challenging the 2008 rule as vague and overly
broad. The court suspended proceedings in the case, pending issuance of the rule
The Roman Catholic Church and some Republicans, like Representative Joe Pitts of
Pennsylvania, criticized the Obama administration’s decision to revoke the Bush
rule. But advocates for abortion rights welcomed it.
“The administration’s action today is cause for disappointment,” said Deirdre A.
McQuade, a spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Secretariat at the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said: “I applaud the Obama
administration for ensuring that women will have access to the information and
services they need while still protecting the conscience rights of health care
providers. The Bush rule clearly went too far and threatened the health and
well-being of millions of patients.”
The 2008 rule provoked a torrent of criticism from doctors, pharmacists,
hospitals and state officials. Pharmacies said the rule would allow their
employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. State officials
said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover
contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape
Clare M. Coleman, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive
Health Association, which represents hundreds of family planning clinics, said
President Obama was rescinding “the most harmful elements” of the Bush rule.
The Obama administration said the 2008 rule might have mistakenly suggested that
health care providers could refuse to treat entire groups of people on account
of the providers’ religious or moral beliefs.
Federal laws provide no protection for such refusals, the administration said.
The bishops conference and the Catholic Health Association, representing
Catholic hospitals, had supported the Bush rule as a way to protect health care
providers against pressure to perform abortions.
Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, said that in
recent years “we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other
health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations.”
In response to such concerns, the Obama administration said, “Roman Catholic
hospitals will have the same statutory protections afforded to them for decades”
because the laws were not affected by the cancellation of the Bush rule.
February 3, 2011
The New York Times
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
At a time when evidence suggests that people in New York City are smoking
less, eating better and biking more, one health statistic that has not budged is
the abortion rate.
Two of every five pregnancies in the city end in abortion, a statistic that has
barely changed in more than a decade. At a news conference last month, Timothy
M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, called the city’s 41
percent abortion rate “downright chilling,” and on Thursday, State Senator Rubén
Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, an abortion opponent, is holding a community meeting to
discuss the issue. Nationally, the issue is receiving a new round of attention,
with numerous state legislatures and the House of Representatives considering
bills that would add restrictions on abortion, and Planned Parenthood was
recently a target of undercover videos by an anti-abortion group.
But city health officials and groups that support access to abortion say that
behind the 41 percent statistic — nearly twice the national rate — are complex
social and legal factors: fewer obstacles to abortion in state law; the absence
of mandatory sex education in New York City public schools; the ignorance of
people, especially young ones, about where to get affordable birth control; and
the ambivalence of young women living in poverty and in unstable relationships
about when and whether to have children.
And although the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion is basically
unchanged, a particularly vulnerable group, teenagers, is having fewer babies
and fewer abortions.
The hand-wringing has led to a rare moment of synchronicity between the Catholic
Church and pro-choice women’s groups, as both say they are disturbed that the
rate is so high, but disagree over what to do about it.
“Listening to Archbishop Dolan, I took a little bit of comfort in that he
recognizes it is important to bring this rate down,” said Joan Malin, president
of Planned Parenthood of New York City. But, she added, “The way we think about
these issues is to really step back a bit and say that the major concern or the
underlying issue that we think is so important is the high rate of unintended
The issue came to light with the city health department’s recent release of its
annual Vital Statistics report, which showed that 41 percent of pregnancies,
excluding miscarriages, in 2009 ended in abortion.
Health experts say the abortion rate is tied to factors like race and income.
“If you look at the pregnancy rates by race and ethnicity in New York City
versus nationally, they are essentially the same for black and Hispanic
teenagers, and lower for whites,” said Susan Craig, a spokeswoman for the city’s
There were 126,774 births, 11,620 miscarriages and 87,273 abortions in New York
City in 2009. Despite the contention of some critics that New York, with its
liberal abortion laws, is a destination state for abortion, nonresidents
accounted for only about 7,000 of these abortions. (Factoring out nonresidents
does not alter the 41 percent abortion rate, because 10,000 nonresidents also
gave birth in the city.)
The little-changed abortion rate figure is a commonly cited statistic. But it
masks large changes in fertility among teenagers.
Since 1996, the number of babies born to teenagers has fallen by 39 percent. The
number of abortions has fallen by more than 16 percent, even though the
population of teenagers has risen modestly. Ninety percent of the teenage
mothers were not married, according to health department estimates.
In that age group in 2009, the rate of abortions was strikingly high for blacks
(74 percent), followed by whites (66 percent) and Hispanics (53 percent). The
rate was also very high for Asians (74 percent), though they were much less
likely to become pregnant.
The drop in teenage pregnancies and abortions, however, was not enough to
significantly alter the overall abortion rate. Most abortions, like most
pregnancies, occurred among women in their 20s. Women in their 30s had abortions
29 percent of the time, and women 40 and older about a third of the time.
Unmarried women accounted for 84 percent of abortions in 2009.
New York State law does not place as many restrictions on abortion as laws in
some other states, like requiring parental consent for minors, or requiring
women to undergo counseling that discourages abortion or to go through a waiting
According to Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher
Institute, which studies reproductive health issues, the high rate of unwed
pregnancy and abortion among poor women is a sign of ambivalence. They are torn,
she said, between the desire to have a baby and the realization that it would be
hard to bring up a child as a single mother.
“In the U.S., most women want to have kids,” Ms. Jones said. “If you don’t have
a lot of money, when is the responsible time to say, Now I want to have a child?
How long are you supposed to put this off?”
That inner conflict could be seen recently in several women coming out of
Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Center, a family planning and abortion
clinic in Greenwich Village.
A 17-year-old girl there to pick up a friend said she had had an abortion in
May. It was her second; the first was when she was 15. The girl said she
sometimes used condoms. “But I wasn’t using them when I got pregnant,” she said.
“I might use them more now, but I don’t know.” Like the other women outside the
clinic, she asked not to be named to preserve her privacy.
A 20-year-old woman being helped by two male friends said she had her first
abortion at 16, and also had a 7-month-old child. “It was an accident,” the
woman said. “I used a condom every time, but I already have a kid, and I’m not
ready for another one.”
Another woman, who was 22, said she had become pregnant after not using birth
control because a doctor had told her she was infertile. “I’ve always been
against abortion,” the woman, who is white and lives on Staten Island, said.
“But if I had a kid now, it would have a terrible life. I’d rather wait.”
The health department distributes a pocket-size guide to clinics where teenagers
can get medical care and low-cost or free contraception (information that is
also available through the city’s 311 hotline). It has provided training in
issues like protecting confidentiality and dispensing contraception to 50
clinics serving 32,000 teenagers a year in the neighborhoods with the highest
pregnancy rates among teenagers. School-based classes use role-playing to help
teenagers “learn how to negotiate maybe saying, I don’t want to have sex,” said
Deborah Kaplan, assistant commissioner of the health department’s bureau of
maternal, infant and reproductive health.
Condoms are distributed through health offices at every public high school, Ms.
Archbishop Dolan agreed to speak out with other religious leaders at a news
conference last month at the invitation of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, an
anti-abortion group coordinated by an investment banker active in conservative
causes, according to the archbishop’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling.
The archbishop “reaffirmed and was looking to spread the word as well of the
archdiocese’s longstanding commitment that any woman who is pregnant and in need
can come to the Archdiocese of New York for assistance,” Mr. Zwilling said.
On Thursday, Senator Díaz, a minister who, like the archbishop, advocates
abstinence and not condom use, convened a meeting of other Hispanic ministers to
discuss the abortion statistics and urge them to talk to their congregations
Newly energized by their success in November’s midterm elections,
conservative legislators in dozens of states are mounting aggressive campaigns
to limit abortions.
The lawmakers are drafting, and some have already introduced, bills that would
ban most abortions at 20 weeks after conception, push women considering
abortions to view a live ultrasound of the fetus, or curb insurance coverage,
among other proposals.
In Florida and Kansas, legislators plan to reintroduce measures that were vetoed
by previous governors but have the support of the new chief executives, like
ultrasound requirements and more stringent regulation of late-term abortions.
“I call on the Legislature to bring to my desk legislation that protects the
unborn, establishing a culture of life in Kansas,” Gov. Sam Brownback said last
week in his first State of the State message.
“This is the best climate for passing pro-life laws in years,” said Michael
Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, expressing the mood in many
states. “We’ve got a pro-life governor and a brand new pro-life speaker. Our
government now is pro-life from top to bottom.”
Abortion opponents plan marches in Washington and elsewhere this weekend and on
Monday to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade,
that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
Republicans in Congress hope to strengthen measures to prevent even indirect
public financing of abortions, but laws in the states have the greatest impact
on access to them. Abortion opponents have been emboldened by major changes in
the political landscape, with conservative Republicans making large gains.
Although social issues were often played down in the campaigns, many of the
newly elected governors and legislators are also solidly anti-abortion, causing
advocates of abortion rights to brace for a year of even tougher battles than
The biggest shift is in the state capitols, with 29 governors now considered to
be solidly anti-abortion, compared with 21 last year. “This is worrisome because
the governors have been the firewall, they’ve vetoed a lot of bad anti-choice
legislation,” said Ted Miller, a spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America.
In 15 states, compared with 10 last year, both the legislature and the governor
are anti-abortion, according to a new report by Naral, and those joining this
category include larger states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as
Georgia and Oklahoma. Maine and Pennsylvania are now strongly anti-abortion as
well, if not quite as solidly.
Just which measures will pass is impossible to predict, particularly because
many states are bogged down by budget crises.
Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state policies on abortion for the Guttmacher
Institute, a research organization, said that while states would be preoccupied
with budget issues, it appeared rather likely that more measures would pass this
year than in 2010, which anti-abortion advocates considered a banner year, with
more than 30 restrictive laws adopted in at least nine states.
The elections brought even more gains for their side than expected, said Mary
Spaulding Balch, state policy director of the National Right to Life Committee,
leading her group to call in its affiliates for a special strategy session on
While many anti-abortion measures have been adopted or debated over the years,
including requiring parental consent for minors and waiting periods, advocates
have set a few top priorities for the months ahead:
¶Banning abortions earlier in pregnancy. Most states place restrictions on later
abortions, often defined as after fetal viability, or around 22 to 26 weeks
after conception. But last year, Nebraska set what many advocates consider a new
gold standard, banning abortions, unless there is imminent danger to the woman’s
life or physical health, at 20 weeks after conception, on a disputed theory that
the fetus can feel pain at that point. The measure has not been tested in court,
but similar measures pushing back the permissible timing are being developed in
Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and other states.
The 20-week law in Nebraska, which took effect in October, forced a prominent
doctor who performed late-term abortions to leave the state. Jill June,
president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said women suffering from
complicated pregnancies but are not yet sick enough to qualify for an emergency
abortion would be forced to travel to other states. Or, she said, doctors
fearing prosecution will wait until such women become dangerously ill before
considering an abortion.
¶Pressing women to view ultrasounds. While several states encourage women
seeking abortions to view an ultrasound, Oklahoma last year adopted a
requirement that doctors or technicians perform the procedure with the screen
visible to the woman, and explain in detail what she is seeing. The measure is
under court challenge, but the Kentucky Senate has passed a similar bill, and
variants are expected to come up in states including Indiana, Maryland, Montana,
Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.
In Florida, former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed an ultrasound bill. The new
governor, Rick Scott, attacked him for that veto and is expected to support a
¶Banning any abortion coverage by insurance companies in the new health
insurance exchanges. Numerous states are poised to impose the ban on plans that
will be offered to small businesses and individual insurance buyers under the
Obama administration health plan.
The shifts to conservative governors, in particular, have opened new
opportunities for abortion opponents. In Kansas, legislators said they would act
quickly to adopt measures that were previously vetoed, including regulations
that will make it harder to open abortion clinics or to perform abortions in the
“There’s pent-up demand in the Legislature for these changes,” said State
Representative Lance Kinzer, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the
Kansas House. Once these long-debated steps are taken, he said, the Legislature
will consider more sweeping restrictions, including banning most abortions after
the 20th week.
The politics of abortion have changed profoundly in some larger states including
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“We’re facing the biggest threat to reproductive rights we’ve ever faced in this
state,” said Lisa Subeck, executive director for Naral Pro-Choice Wisconsin.
In Michigan, because of the switch to an anti-abortion governor, “the dominos
are lined up well for us this time,” said Ed Rivet, legislative director for
Right to Life of Michigan. For starters, advocates hope to pass a state ban on
the procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion that had been vetoed twice.
After that, he said, “We have quite a list.”
Many defenders of abortion rights argue that because the election hinged largely
on the economy and the role of government, officials did not receive a mandate
for sweeping new social measures. “This last election was not about these issues
at all,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of
America. “We now are concerned about a real overreaching by some state
legislators and governors that will make it very difficult for women to access
reproductive health care.”
Daniel S. McConchie, vice president for government affairs with Americans United
for Life, responded that laws restricting abortion have been adopted right along
by the states and that while he expected large gains in the year ahead, they
will be part of steady trend.
The abortion rate in the United States, which had declined steadily since a 1981
peak of more than 29 abortions per 1,000 women, stalled between 2005 and 2008,
at slightly under 20 abortions per 1,000 women, according to a new report from
the Guttmacher Institute.
Re “The Unborn Paradox” (column, Jan. 2):
Ross Douthat seems to be suggesting that women with unintended pregnancies
should bear children rather than have abortions because infertile women want
babies. In doing so, Mr. Douthat ignores the serious health risks that
pregnancies sometimes incur. Should women with unwanted pregnancies be compelled
to take those risks?
Consider New Year’s Eve, a typical night on my obstetrics floor. Several
pregnant women were suffering from complications. Two needed emergency surgery.
One was 19 years old and 20 weeks pregnant with an abnormal fetus. She had
decided to see the pregnancy through. But the amniotic sac ruptured five months
early. We had to stop the heavy bleeding and infection that followed. Her baby
Abortion opponents would impose all the risks of pregnancy on women who wish to
end their pregnancies. Instead, let’s make sure that everyone on the
socioeconomic ladder can prevent and plan conception.
New York, Jan. 3, 2011
The writer, an obstetrician, is medical director of Physicians for Reproductive
Choice and Health.
To the Editor:
I have supported abortion rights for as long as I can remember, but nothing
cemented my commitment to women’s reproductive freedom like my own very much
wanted pregnancy nine years ago.
As I grew increasingly delighted about both my experience of pregnancy and
planning for a life with twin babies, I imagined how differently I would feel in
other circumstances. What if I were 14 rather than 34? What if my partner and I
had as many children as we could handle, or more? What if one or both of us were
How might our thrill at the short-term changes in my body and the long-term
changes in our lives transform into dread, depression and anxiety?
Moreover, just because expectant parents are able to think of the fetus as a
baby does not mean it actually is one, and that abortion is the same as the
taking of an actual life, rather than a fantasized one.
Sarah E. Chinn
Brooklyn, Jan. 3, 2011
To the Editor:
Ross Douthat provides an eloquent analysis of the abortion conundrum. We embrace
the humanity of our “wanted” babies while we strip the human rights from those
whose conception was unplanned and unwanted. And yet, the circumstances of
conception don’t change the fact that a child in the womb is a separate and
unique human being, morally and ethically entitled to the same rights as you and
Mr. Douthat also points out that adoption has become an unlikely choice for
young mothers like Markai Durham, the subject of an MTV show, who says she
couldn’t bear to give up a child she carried in her womb for nine months, and
opts, instead, to kill that child.
Did anyone along the way point out the deadly flaw in her thinking? Markai and
the million-plus babies who fall into the “unwanted” category every year deserve
to be given a choice that doesn’t involve murder. (Rev.)
National Director, Priests for Life
Staten Island, Jan. 3, 2011
To the Editor:
What MTV depicted in its documentary “No Easy Decision,” and what Ross Douthat
does not acknowledge in his column, is that Markai Durham and thousands of women
like her are capable of sensitively and wisely weighing the decisions that have
consequences of life or death.
Mr. Douthat offers no evidence that fewer abortions would mitigate complex
fertility treatments or the enormous amount of bureaucratic red tape surrounding
the adoption process. Many studies in fact suggest that, in a culture that
treasures biological children, prospective parents opt first for fertility
treatments and then, if at all, pursue adoption.
A thoughtful look at reproductive decision-making is always welcome, but a
broadside that once again seeks to demonize and make guilty those women who
elect to terminate their pregnancies is not adding to the civil discourse.
Conflating fertility, adoption and abortion in no way alleviates the myriad
challenges involved in deciding whether or not to become a parent.
President and C.E.O.
Planned Parenthood of New York City
New York, Jan. 3, 2011
To the Editor:
I disagree with Ross Douthat’s appraisal of adoption as an answer to unplanned
pregnancies and infertility. I have worked with many pregnant teenagers and
young adult women in my 25 years as a director of an adoption agency, and
adoption is only a small part of the solution.
While I am obviously sympathetic to the desire of infertile couples to become
parents, their needs can never supersede those of pregnant women who are not
prepared to be parents.
Research has shown that abortion very rarely leads to long-term negative
psychological consequences for those women who choose it (myself included).
Yes, of course there is regret and sadness for some women, but carrying a baby
to term and placing him or her for adoption more often than not leads to a
lifetime of pain and sadness, regardless of how right the situation may seem. It
is the right choice for the very few.
Abortion and adoption are two ends of the same spectrum — women having choices
about their reproductive lives. But the agony of a woman placing a child for
adoption cannot be understated.
American entertainment industry has never been comfortable with the act of
abortion. Film or television characters might consider the procedure, but even
on the most libertine programs (a “Mad Men,” a “Sex and the City”), they’re more
likely to have a change of heart than actually go through with it. Reality TV
thrives on shocking scenes and subjects — extreme pregnancies and surgeries,
suburban polygamists and the gay housewives of New York — but abortion remains a
little too controversial, and a little bit too real.
This omission is often cited as a victory for the pro-life movement, and in some
cases that’s plainly true. (Recent unplanned-pregnancy movies like “Juno” and
“Knocked Up” made abortion seem not only unnecessary but repellent.) But it can
also be a form of cultural denial: a way of reassuring the public that abortion
in America is — in Bill Clinton’s famous phrase — safe and legal, but also rare.
Rare it isn’t: not when one in five pregnancies ends at the abortion clinic. So
it was a victory for realism, at least, when MTV decided to supplement its hit
reality shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” with last week’s special, “No
Easy Decision,” which followed Markai Durham, a teen mother who got pregnant a
second time and chose abortion.
MTV being MTV, the special’s attitude was resolutely pro-choice. But it was a
heartbreaking spectacle, whatever your perspective. Durham and her boyfriend are
the kind of young people our culture sets adrift — working-class and
undereducated, with weak support networks, few authority figures, and no script
for sexual maturity beyond the easily neglected admonition to always use a
condom. Their televised agony was a case study in how abortion can
simultaneously seem like a moral wrong and the only possible solution — because
it promised to keep them out of poverty, and to let them give their first
daughter opportunities they never had.
The show was particularly wrenching, though, when juxtaposed with two recent
dispatches from the world of midlife, upper-middle-class infertility. Last month
there was Vanessa Grigoriadis’s provocative New York Magazine story “Waking Up
From the Pill,” which suggested that a lifetime on chemical birth control has
encouraged women “to forget about the biological realities of being female ...
inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side
effect.” Then on Sunday, The Times Magazine provided a more intimate look at the
same issue, in which a midlife parent, the journalist Melanie Thernstrom,
chronicled what it took to bring her children into the world: six failed in
vitro cycles, an egg donor and two surrogate mothers, and an untold fortune in
In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted
pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by
adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of
births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to
an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted,
and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond
Some of this shift reflects the growing acceptance of single parenting. But some
of it reflects the impact of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, countless lives that might
have been welcomed into families like Thernstrom’s — which looked into adoption,
and gave it up as hopeless — have been cut short in utero instead.
And lives are what they are. On the MTV special, the people around Durham
swaddle abortion in euphemism. The being inside her is just “pregnancy tissue.”
After the abortion, she recalls being warned not to humanize it: “If you think
of it like [a person], you’re going to make yourself depressed.” Instead, “think
of it as what it is: nothing but a little ball of cells.”
It’s left to Durham herself to cut through the evasion. Sitting with her
boyfriend afterward, she begins to cry when he calls the embryo a “thing.”
Gesturing to their infant daughter, she says, “A ‘thing’ can turn out like that.
That’s what I remember ... ‘Nothing but a bunch of cells’ can be her.”
When we want to know this, we know this. Last week’s New Yorker carried a poem
by Kevin Young about expectant parents, early in pregnancy, probing the mother’s
womb for a heartbeat:
The doctor trying again to find you, fragile,
fern, snowflake. Nothing.
After, my wife will say, in fear,
impatient, she went beyond her body,
this tiny room, into the ether—
... And there
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. ...
This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after,
so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally
unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.
Those words so affected Dr. William Harrison that for years, he said, he could
not repeat them. They made him break down in tears.
The woman who spoke them — black, poor and middle-aged — had come in 1967 to the
Arkansas hospital where Dr. Harrison was a medical student in obstetrics. A
doctor, after examining her swollen belly, had told her she was pregnant.
Dr. Harrison went on to perform 20,000 or so abortions over three decades,
became a frequent target of abortion protesters and spoke out forcefully in
national forums. In the 1980s, when the abortion wars raged fiercest in
Arkansas, his clinic, the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic, was firebombed, picketed,
blockaded and vandalized. Death threats became routine.
In essays, articles and interviews he castigated abortion-rights opponents as
“right-wing crazies.” They responded just as fervently, calling him a murderer,
particularly after he gained wide attention for offering free abortions to
survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Dr. Harrison felt compelled to perform abortions after many doctors in northwest
Arkansas abandoned the practice. For decades, he was the only doctor in the
region willing to provide the procedure. In typically flamboyant language, he
said, “I have chosen to ride this tiger unquietly, raking its side with verbal
spurs, swinging my hat and whooping like a cowboy.”
Dr. Harrison died on Friday at the age of 75, the Nelson-Berna Funeral Home in
Fayetteville said. He had received a diagnosis of leukemia in May.
Dr. Harrison readily admitted that he destroyed life, but denied that he killed
babies. His view was that an embryo was far from being a human being with a
brain. The higher moral value to Dr. Harrison was salvaging the future of an
often disadvantaged girl or woman.
But he drew a line at performing abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy,
partly, he said, because they made him uncomfortable and partly because he felt
he lacked the expertise. He sent those who wanted one to his friend Dr. George
Tiller in Wichita, Kan., an expert surgeon who was assassinated in his church by
an anti-abortion zealot in 2009. Dr. Harrison often gave those patients money
for gasoline for the trip to Wichita.
William Floyd Nathaniel Harrison, the son of small-town teachers, was born in
rural Faulkner County, Ark., on Sept. 8, 1935. His mother would say that she
knew he was destined to become an obstetrician because he essentially delivered
himself as his father rode on horseback to fetch the doctor. He grew up going to
Methodist and Baptist churches (his mother played piano at both), and twice read
the entire Bible at 12, ending up, he said, thoroughly unimpressed with the God
By his account, he piled up D’s and F’s at what is now the University of Central
Arkansas in Conway before enlisting in the Navy at 17. He later enrolled at the
University of Arkansas, where he studied business until he fell for Betty
Waggoner. She was dating a pre-med student, he said, so he switched to that to
impress her. They were married for 50 years.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Harrison is survived by his daughters, Amanda
Robinson and Rebecca Harrison; his son, Benjamin III; a brother, Ben; two
sisters, Mary Harrell and Martha Harrison; and seven grandchildren.
Dr. Harrison received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University
of Arkansas and did his internship and residency there. He and a colleague set
up the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic in 1972.
Dr. Harrison performed his first abortion in 1974, a year after they became
legal, and found himself doing them sporadically while his clinic was booming
delivering babies. But by 1984, as older doctors retired and younger ones shied
from offering abortions, often fearing being ostracized or attacked, he became
the only doctor in his area performing them.
As more and more abortion patients knocked on his door, he said, he began
recalling the woman who would have preferred cancer to pregnancy. He also
recalled the many women who had come to the hospital seriously injured by
So after delivering more than 6,000 babies, he gave up that practice and devoted
himself to abortions, writing that if he wanted them to be legal, safe and
available, the only moral and ethical course was for him to do them.
As for the protesters frequently outside his clinic, he often said they were
splendid advertising, drawing women in need to the clinic who might otherwise
have not known where to go.
WICHITA, Kan. — Scott Roeder, the man charged with murder in the
shooting of George R. Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country to perform
late-term abortions, took the witness stand in his own defense on Thursday, and
said that, yes, he did it.
Yes, he bought a gun. Yes, he took target practice. Yes, he had learned about
Dr. Tiller’s habits, his home address, his security precautions. And, yes, he
shot Dr. Tiller last May 31 as Dr. Tiller stood inside his church.
“That is correct, yes,” Mr. Roeder told the jurors, in a calm, matter-of-fact
But there was a twist.
Lawyers for Mr. Roeder, who provided the only testimony for the defense in a
trial that has spanned several weeks, are hoping that jurors will consider Mr.
Roeder’s motive: his growing opposition to abortion, which he deemed criminal
and immoral, and his mounting sense that laws and prosecutors and other abortion
opponents were never going to stop Dr. Tiller from performing them.
“I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children. I shot
him,” he testified, adding at another point, “If I didn’t do it, the babies were
going to die the next day.”
Was he remorseful? No, Mr. Roeder said without emotion. After the killing, he
said, he felt “a sense of relief.”
And so, in a way, the hearing here, watched intensely by all sides of the
abortion debate, turned into precisely what the presiding judge had said all
along that it ought not to be — a trial over abortion. Judge Warren Wilbert has
wrestled with requests from the prosecution and the defense over how to permit
Mr. Roeder to mount a murder defense without allowing him to turn the case into
a public forum on abortion.
But even with his pointed testimony, based on a ruling late Thursday by Judge
Wilbert, Mr. Roeder continues to face a difficult legal hurdle in beating back a
charge of first-degree murder.
Judge Wilbert ruled that he would not instruct the jury to consider a lesser
charge when they begin deliberations on Friday. Mr. Roeder has pleaded not
guilty to murder, but defense lawyers had argued that his beliefs about abortion
might warrant a voluntary manslaughter conviction if jurors concluded that Mr.
Roeder possessed, as Kansas law defines it, “an unreasonable but honest belief
that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”
Seated on the witness stand, facing a tiny courtroom gallery that included Dr.
Tiller’s widow, Jeanne, abortion opponents from other parts of the country, and
national abortion rights supporters, Mr. Roeder seemed quiet, almost lawyerly,
in his responses to inquiries about the killing, in which Dr. Tiller was shot in
the forehead, the gun pressed to his skin.
Mr. Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., told jurors that he had a growing sense of
his own faith and opposition to abortion in the 1990s after watching “The 700
Club,” the evangelist Pat Robertson’s television talk show. Mr. Roeder’s views
on religion and abortion, he said, went “hand in hand.”
Mr. Roeder acknowledged under cross-examination that he had, as early as 1993,
thought about killing Dr. Tiller. A year before the shooting, he said, he had
gone to Dr. Tiller’s church with a gun intending to shoot him. (Dr. Tiller was
not there that day, he said.) And he said he considered other alternatives:
cutting off Dr. Tiller’s hands with a sword, shooting him from a distance with a
rifle, or finding him at his house.
Of his decision to go to the church, he said, “It was the only window of
opportunity I saw that he could be stopped.”
Abortion opponents here, including some who have served time in jail for
abortion clinic violence, praised Mr. Roeder for his testimony. But some
complained bitterly that Judge Wilbert had severely limited the defense by
barring the testimony of Phill Kline, a former Kansas attorney general who had
unsuccessfully pursued criminal investigations against Dr. Tiller and by
preventing jurors from considering some conviction short of murder.
Abortion rights supporters, meanwhile, called Mr. Roeder’s statements deeply
chilling, and said they mandated nothing short than a first-degree murder
conviction, which could carry a life sentence. “It should send a message that
there is no justification for this,” said Vicki Saporta, the president of the
National Abortion Federation, who sat in the court.
Over four days, prosecutors laid out a case that rarely dealt with abortion, but
stuck instead to dates and times and forensic and witness evidence implicating
Mr. Roeder in the Tiller shooting. Abortion rights supporters said that was as
it should be: this was murder, plain and simple.
By the middle of the week, the courthouse had drawn some of the most outspoken
members of the abortion debate from around the country.
“George Tiller shed the blood of 60,000 innocent children,” Randall Terry, the
founder of Operation Rescue, told reporters. Mr. Terry (who is in a legal
dispute over the use of the group’s name with Operation Rescue’s current
president, Troy Newman) said that he was neither condoning nor condemning Mr.
Roeder’s actions, but that people should remember the children.
Days after Mr. Roeder’s arrest, the United States Department of Justice
announced it was investigating Dr. Tiller’s death to determine whether there was
anyone else involved in the plot. On Thursday, Mr. Roeder acknowledged that he
has friends who, like him, believe that the killing of abortion doctors is
justifiable. One such friend, Shelley Shannon, was imprisoned for shooting Dr.
Tiller in both arms in 1993. Still, Mr. Roeder said on Thursday, he acted alone.
Justice Department representatives are “actively monitoring” Mr. Roeder’s case,
a department spokesman said, adding, “Our investigation into the murder of Dr.
Tiller is open and ongoing.”
Guided by lawyers, Mr. Roeder methodically described the morning of the shooting
— how he had fired the gun inside the church, driven away from Wichita, hidden
the gun in a small town, and picked up a snack, a pizza. In the days after the
killing, Dr. Tiller’s family announced that it would close the abortion clinic,
the only one in Wichita.
So, Nola Foulston, the prosecutor asked him, do you feel you have successfully
completed your mission?
“He’s been stopped,” Mr. Roeder said.
But do you feel you have successfully completed your mission, she asked again.