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Freedom To Choose Three Essays On Abortion Rights 2016

* The Democratic Party platform states that abortion should be generally legal and supports the use of taxpayer funding to perform abortions. The platform also states that the Democratic Party:

strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services, as well as protections for women against pregnancy discrimination.[78]

* The Republican Party platform states that abortion should be generally illegal and supports a Constitutional Amendment that would assure preborn humans the right to life. It opposes the “use of public funds to perform or promote abortion” and states:

We affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women who face an unplanned pregnancy. …We thank and encourage providers of counseling, medical services, and adoption assistance for empowering women experiencing an unintended pregnancy to choose life.[79]

* The Libertarian Party platform states that “government should be kept out of the matter.”[80]

* The Green Party platform states that abortion should be legal and “available on demand.” It also supports using taxpayer funding to perform abortions.[81]

* The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”[82] (More details in the section on Constitution and Law.)

* Since 1989, several Democrats including Jim Oberstar of Minnesota have sponsored at least 14 resolutions proposing a Constitutional Amendment that would guarantee preborn humans the right to life, all of them containing an exception to protect the life of the mother.[83]

* Since 1989, several Republicans including Ann Emerson of Missouri have sponsored at least 23 resolutions proposing a Constitutional Amendment that would guarantee preborn humans the right to life, all of them containing an exception to protect the life of the mother. Six of these resolutions also include exceptions for cases of rape and incest.[84]

* In the 2016 U.S. presidential race, the National Right to Life Political Action Committee endorsed Donald Trump for President and stated that Hillary Clinton has “taken the most extreme abortion position.”[85][86]

* In the 2016 U.S. presidential race, the Political Action Committee of NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and stated that Donald Trump would be “disaster” for “the future of abortion access in this country.”[87][88]

* In 1999, during an interview announcing he would be leaving the Republican Party for the Reform Party, Donald Trump stated on NBC’s Meet the Press, “I am very pro-choice.”[89]

* In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump wrote that he “would support a ban” on partial birth abortion.[90]

* In 2011, speaking before the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump stated “I am pro-life.”[91]

* During a 2015 Republican Party primary debate, moderator Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his change of position. Trump replied “I’ve evolved on many issues over the years. … I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life.”[92]

* In 2015, Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press questioned Trump on abortion:

Todd: Should some form of abortion always be legal?


Trump: Well, to me, I have exceptions. Rape, incest, if the mother is going to die. And Ronald Reagan had those same exceptions. And many Republicans have those same exceptions. But I say rape, incest—


Todd: You said life of the mother. What about health of the mother?


Trump: Well, I said actually if the mother’s close to death. And I’m talking about death. You know, because then you sort of say, like, “Well, maybe she’s not feeling so well—”[93]

* In 2016, Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked Trump if there should be a punishment for women who have an abortion. He replied, “The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment. … I have not determined what the punishment would be.”[94] Later on the same day, Trump clarified that “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”[95]

* During the final 2016 U.S. Presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked if Trump would like “to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?” Trump stated overturning Roe v. Wade will “happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.”[96] Following the election, Trump said that if Roe v. Wade “ever were overturned, it would go back to the states.”[97]

* In 2017, Trump reinstated Ronald Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy.”[98] This policy directs the Secretary of State “to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”[99]

* At a Democratic Candidates “Compassion Forum” held in April 2008, Barack Obama was asked, “Do you personally believe that life begins at conception, and if not, when does it begin?” Obama replied in part:

This is something that I have not come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I’ve said before, is there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.[100]

* Four months later in an interview, Obama was asked, “At what point does a baby get human rights?” He responded in part:

I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.[101]

* Barack Obama has voiced support for Roe v. Wade and stated that this would be reflected in his appointments to the Supreme Court.[102][103][104] He has also stated that he supports a ban on late-term abortions but only with an exception for the “health” of the mother.[105]

* In a July 2008 interview, Obama was asked to clarify his position on late-term abortions, and he stated:

I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that mental distress qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.[106]

* Four days later, a reporter asked for clarification of these remarks, and Obama responded that late-term abortion bans must have an exception for “serious clinical mental health diseases,” but this does not mean that “if a woman just doesn’t feel good then that is an exception. That’s never been the case.” He also stated:

It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don’t think that’s how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don’t think that’s how the courts have interpreted it and I think that’s important to emphasize and understand.[107]

* The Roe v. Wade verdict provides several examples of what may constitute a risk the health of the mother. These include the “stigma of unwed motherhood” and the “distress” “associated with the unwanted child.” Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which were issued by the Supreme Court on the same day with the order that they “are to be read together,” mandate that abortion be legal up until the point of birth if any one physician willing to perform an abortion says it is necessary to preserve a mother’s health.[108][109] (More details in the section on Constitution and Law.)

* Speaking before a Planned Parenthood national conference in July 2007, Obama stated: “I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. … On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield.”[110][111] When asked what he would do to “ensure access to abortion” and make certain his judicial nominees are “true to the core tenets of Roe v. Wade,” he stated:

Well, the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.[112]

* The Freedom of Choice Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate in April 2007 by 13 Democrats including Barbara Boxer (California), Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey) and Max Baucus (Montana).[113] One month later, Barack Obama signed on as a cosponsor.[114] Its stated objective is to “protect, consistent with Roe v. Wade, a woman’s freedom to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy….” It would invalidate “every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice” that interferes with the termination of any “pregnancy prior to viability” and any pregnancy “after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.”[115]

* On the same day this bill was introduced in the Senate, a bill with the same name and parallel verbiage was introduced in the House of Representatives.[116] It gained 109 sponsors (108 Democrats and one Republican) but was not voted upon.[117][118][119] The Senate bill gained 20 sponsors (19 Democrats and one Independent) but was not voted upon.[120][121]

* The President of the United States appoints judges to the Supreme Court. These appointments must be approved by a majority of the Senate.[122]

* Once seated, federal judges serve for life unless they voluntarily resign or are removed through impeachment, which requires a majority vote of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the Senate.[123]

* For more implications relating to the appointment and approval of judges, see the section on Constitution and Law.

* In June 2008, Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee stated that the Democratic Party “believes that we ought to significantly reduce the number of abortions in this country.” A reporter asked Dean how he could reconcile this assertion with the party’s support for taxpayer funding of abortions. Dean replied it is “total nonsense” that public funding of abortions increases the abortion rate.[124]

* According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization whose “Guiding Principles” includes support for legalized abortion:

A 1994-1995 … survey of abortion patients found that in states where Medicaid pays for abortions, women covered by Medicaid have an abortion rate 3.9 times that of women who are not covered, while in states that do not permit Medicaid funding for abortions, Medicaid recipients are only 1.6 times as likely as nonrecipients to have abortions.[125]

* The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supports the use of taxpayer funding to perform abortions. In making its case for this position, the ACLU poses the following rhetorical question:

What about those who are morally or religiously opposed to abortion?

And answers:

Our tax dollars fund many programs that individual people oppose.[126]

* The ACLU is opposed to taxpayer funded school choice programs. One of their arguments for this stance is:

School voucher schemes would force all taxpayers to support religious beliefs and practices with which they may strongly disagree.[127]

Israel, a nation with a forceful religious lobby and a conservative prime minister, is poised to offer its female citizens some of the most liberal abortion coverage in the world.

The nation’s Health Ministry commission, led by Dr. Yonatan Halevy, last week announced its state-subsidized “health basket,” the package of medications and services that all Israeli citizens are entitled to under the nation’s health care system. It was approved by the cabinet on Sunday. The health basket is analyzed and amended on an annual basis, and among the many additional treatments to be offered to Israelis in 2014 are free-of-charge abortions for women ages 20-33.

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Israel has always had a liberal stance on abortion, allowing women facing medical emergencies or those who are victims of rape or abuse to receive subsidies to help them terminate their pregnancies. Outside of those regulations, women can apply for abortions for reasons ranging from an emotional or mental threat caused by the pregnancy or for not being married to the baby’s father. All women who seek to end a pregnancy must appear before a three-member committee to state their case, but 98 percent of requests are approved. Women under the age of 20 or over the age of 40 were also previously eligible for subsidized abortions, regardless of the reason.

With the newly amended health care package, however, funding will now be available for more than 6,000 additional women seeking to terminate their pregnancies, at the cost at some NIS 16 million ($4.6 million). No medical reason for the abortion is required.

Halevy, director general of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, rejects the idea that the health commission’s move is in any way radical, and is quick to point out that the boost in abortion funding is but one small piece of several alterations to Israel’s state-sponsored health care, ranging from mental health care to the treatment of diabetes and beyond.

“We want large families in Israel. We definitely encourage birth,” he says. “But when pregnancy occurs and it is undesired or inadvertent, I think we should supply the means to end the pregnancy properly.”

Dr. Yonatan Halevy (screen capture: YouTube/ Halachic Organ Donor Society)

Among Israel’s religious right wing, there have been low grumblings of protest against the new law, but for a nation where a woman’s hemline or her seat on a public bus can set off a firestorm, the response has been surprisingly muted.

Dr. Eli Schussheim, chairman of the pro-life group Efrat, likened the decision to theft, saying that by allocating funding for non-medically necessary abortions, the committee “is stealing… from sick people… and giving the money instead as a prize to 6,000 negligent women.”

His sentiments were echoed by Rabbi David Stav, head of the relatively liberal Tzohar group of Orthodox rabbis, who said there is “no question” that in the absence of a medical emergency, abortion is against Jewish law.

It is highly unlikely, however, that Israel will soon see protests that even come near those that target abortion clinics in the United States, where the legality of pregnancy termination remains one of that nation’s most polarizing issues. A backlash of societal shaming against abortion-seekers — such as in Spain, where some 60% of women are prompted to pay for the procedure privately rather than collect the available government funding — is also highly improbable.

The number of nations that now take a stance as liberal as Israel’s on abortion can be counted on one hand. In Canada, abortion is legal at any stage of a woman’s pregnancy, and those performed in hospitals (but not in private clinics) are for the most part covered by insurance. In Slovenia, abortion has been free since 1977, and in 2006, a government minister who tried to limit funding to only those women whose lives were at risk was promptly asked to resign his post.

While Israel may seem an unlikely party to such liberalism, global legislation on abortion proves that when it comes to the life of a fetus, a nation’s politics do not always jive with its attitude toward the controversial procedure.

Some stalwartly left-leaning nations are surprisingly rigid on their abortion laws, including Sweden, where women have only the first 18 weeks of their pregnancy to apply for the procedure before being barred except in cases of mortal danger. And in Russia, a nation whose conservative stance on issues like gay rights has prompted roiling protests ahead of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, there are more abortions performed each year than there are live births.

The women set to benefit from the expansion of abortion benefits, Halevy says, will be those who need it most: single women, young women who are unable to ask their parents for the funds, or those who fall pregnant as the result of an extramarital affair but are financially dependent on their husbands. While he concedes that there have been some knee-jerk statements against the ruling, he says that “once you explain who the candidates are who are set to benefit from it, I didn’t hear much opposition.”

And he rejects the idea that easier access to abortion will create a laissez-faire attitude toward pregnancy, saying, “There is emotional and physical drama to pregnancy. I don’t believe someone would get pregnant just because her abortion could be financed.”

Despite the media focus to the abortion issue, Halevy says that what is radical about the new health care package – and is being lost in the din of debate – is sweeping new coverage for a range of oncological medications, and a cutting-edge, forward-thinking approach to mental health care, including the addition of a new and sorely needed treatment for schizophrenia that previously had to paid for out of pocket.

Other areas that have received a boost in funding are treatments for prostate cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. The committee came to their recommendations after spending three months poring over more than 3,600 pages of new medical research from around the globe and then careful analyzing costs, prevalence of need, and recommendations made by Israel’s four health insurance funds as to what was most sorely needed.

“There is no country in the world where its citizens are entitled to public funding for such a wide basket of services,” Halevy says. “With the new mental health package, with some of the oncological diseases like melanoma and lymphona – we have made a lot of progress.”