Access to abortion services is a Constitutional right …

… except for women in the armed forces in combat zones. Republicans and “moderate” Democrats like it that way. Real Democrats think differently, and as if now they have the votes to change things.

… but Republicans and “moderate” Democrats such as Ben Nelson are willing to deny it to servicewomen in combat zones. However, since elections matter, it looks as if the civilized policy of the first Clinton term will be reinstated: military hospitals will be able to perform abortions as long as they’re paid for with private funds. If you’re thinking about sitting on your hands, and your wallet, between now and November, please think about this.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

34 thoughts on “Access to abortion services is a Constitutional right …”

  1. Since when is "access to abortion services" a constitutional right? Is there some caselaw on point that I've missed? So far our judges have only said that most governmental restrictions on access to abortion are unconstitutional.

  2. <Sigh.> Yes, Thomas. Which means that any woman who can afford to pay for an abortion may have one: unless she's in uniform in a hostile country, where civilian hospitals aren't safe and military hospitals aren't allowed to perform abortions. So the women who are wearing our uniform to defend our freedoms are denied a basic liberty all other women have. Is that clear now?

  3. No, it isn't clear at all. In fact, it's not true at all. As the article you linked to say, "With no access to safe abortions outside the base, regulations require that a woman be flown home within two weeks of the time she finds out she’s pregnant, a particular stigma for unmarried women that ends any future career advancement." So in fact women who become pregnant aren't denied the liberty to have an abortion; they're simply not provided the right to have the military provide the abortion to them in a military hospital.

  4. If murder for hire of babies is called a constitutional right then we're living in the most morally bankrupt society ever to exist. Genocide on this scale makes the holocaust look minor. "Constitutional abortion" is THE moral issue of our day, and unfortunately we've chosen the uncivilized path of allowing mass murder. Hear the cries from the grave. While liberals run around whining about torture, etc., they're complicit in the most horrendous human rights violation ever to exist by supporting a woman's right to choose the death of her own seed. SHAME. DISGUSTING DISGUSTING SHAME.

  5. What other elective surgery is routinely available in military field hospitals? Nose jobs? Liposuction?

  6. Bux says:

    June 11, 2010 at 4:18 am

    "If murder for hire of babies is called a constitutional right then we’re living in the most morally bankrupt society ever to exist. "

    Could you please direct me to your massive volume of posts against the Iraq War?

  7. Ah Yes, the old "two wrongs make a right" argument Barry. Let's pretend for a minute that I agree with your assessment of whatever atrocities you think are associated with the Iraq War. Does that somehow make abortion right?

  8. > If murder for hire of babies is called a constitutional right then we’re living in the most morally bankrupt society ever to exist.

    Hey Bux, you go to hell.

    For all I know you're an atheist with a secular objection to abortion, but it seems far more likely that you're saturated with the arrogance of those who think they can limit what their omnipotent god may say to different people.

  9. Can we recognize, please, that calling abortions elective is the sign of a misogynist? Abortions are elective only in the sense that having a heart bypass or a stent instead of controlling angina with drugs and expectant management is elective, or that having knee surgery instead of using crutches or a wheelchair is elective.

  10. "Abortions are elective only in the sense that having a heart bypass or a stent instead of controlling angina with drugs and expectant management is elective, or that having knee surgery instead of using crutches or a wheelchair is elective."

    That's stark BS. The vast majority of abortions are not performed to prevent the mother from becoming crippled or dying, they're performed to prevent a child from being born. And how often do you suppose heart bypasses or stent instalations are performed in Army field hospitals, where drugs are working?

    And I'd venture to guess that non-elective emergency abortions WOULD be performed in an army field hospital, if necessary.

    No, we're talking about an elective procedure.

  11. Not that there's anything wrong with electing to abort a pregnancy for any reason, but if you really don't want a child and find yourself pregnant, then it's only "elective" in the sense that dodging a bullet is elective. Having an unwanted child is at least as horrible an outcome as, say, a miscarriage – and in the latter case, you can try again, while in the former you are without recourse.

  12. Bux : a zygote is not a baby. A blastocyst is not a baby. A first-term fetus is not a baby.

    Any sane person can tell the difference, and until the 1800s, most Roman Catholics could too.

    The Church's opposition to abortion is historically recent.

    The idea of 'ensoulment' at conception is actually a radically new change in Christianity that dates back only to 1869. For the first 1800 years or so of Christianity, the fetus was not considered human and was not 'ensouled' with a human soul until 'quickening,' some time in the second trimester. Abortion before that point was not considered murder or a mortal sin by the Church. Though, to be sure, a number of Christian scholars argued for instant ensoulment, the Church rejected their theological arguments and stuck to the dogma of delayed ensoulment.

    In 1869, Pope Pius IX was trying to gather support within the church hierarchy for the adoption of the principle of 'Papal Infallability.' He approached the French leader, Bonaparte III, an Bonaparte demanded a political trade. Worried about a century-long decline in the French population. Bonaparte agreed to back Papal Infallibility, but only if Pope Pius IX would ban all abortions, even those before quickening when the fetus changed from fetus inanimatus to fetus animatus and received a human soul.

    Pius IX accepted the political quid-pro-quo and, in exchange for Bonaparte's political support, he issued a new Papal Bull declaring that conception was the point at which the pre-embryo became ensouled.

    It wasn't until 1917 that that Church Canon was finally changed to remove the distinction between the fetus inanimatus and the fetus animatus.

  13. Bux says:

    "Ah Yes, the old “two wrongs make a right” argument Barry. Let’s pretend for a minute that I agree with your assessment of whatever atrocities you think are associated with the Iraq War. Does that somehow make abortion right?"

    I'm pointing out that you're suddenly invoking human life, after being a typical right-wing slaughter supporter.

  14. >>I’m pointing out that you’re suddenly invoking human life, after being a typical right-wing slaughter supporter.<<

    "One is a sin. Ten thousand is foreign policy". An old GF had that bumper sticker on her car. All about scale and power.

  15. Always fun to talk about abortion.

    On the off chance that this may make a difference, I would like to say that, based on the women I know personally, most women would really prefer not to have to have an abortion. Regardless of their religious beliefs. Ask yourself this — do I know anyone who even goes to the gyno (that's a "female problem" doctor, in case any of you don't know) for fun????? Do you? No, you don't. So at a minimum, it ought to be clear that an accidental pregnancy is a sign that something is *already* wrong. Because we don't go looking for this sh–.

    So if you want to stop abortions, the best way to do that is to increase access to preventive health care — like contraception, ALL kinds, which I hope is *free* for military women but going out on a limb here, I'm going to guess it's *not* – so that women can take better care of their health. If we're lucky, maybe some of the guys will act responsibly too.

    Also, raise your daughters to stand up for themselves. No nookie without a condom, for example. No nookie if she's not in the mood. Etc.

    Also, given the apparently high rate of sexual abuse in the military, you might want to tell them not to join up at all. Personally, I don't understand why that problem is hard to solve — why not just tell servicepeople that they can't have more than two beers, for example? It's the military, they have to obey orders, I thought. Bob's your uncle.

    Besides that I don't think the government should tell women what to do with their bodies (there's my libbie streak), I object to this idea that women are frivolous and selfish and can't be trusted to do what's right. Where on earth does the right get off saying that?

    Guys, the choice that *you* get is to wear a condom. That's it. That's *your* choice. Make it, don't make it, but either way I don't want to hear bupkus out of you afterward. Seriously. How's that for some reality?

  16. "Having an unwanted child is at least as horrible an outcome as, say, a miscarriage – and in the latter case, you can try again, while in the former you are without recourse."

    Because there's no such thing as adoption…

    When abortion comes up, and pro-choicers start analogizing having a baby be born alive to coronary heart disease, being shot, a broken knee, it comes home just how deep the basic gulf here is.

  17. If I understand, there's no general prohibition of elective surgeries in military hospitals.

  18. Giving up a child for adoption is an amazing act of … faith? I don't think I could do it though. And I don't think the government should be able to force anyone to do it. Curiously, it seems like the same people who are anti-choice are always wanting to cut welfare… odd, that.

  19. You'd find it easier to kill a child, than give it up? That's an amazing act of.. something.

  20. Joel Hanes, I'm not interested in what the official stance of the church has been throughout history. The Catholic church has been corrupt in every generation. I don't have any time for what the pope has to say either. That's just not what I base my morals on. Let's talk science. You say a first-term fetus is not a baby, but provide no scientific evidence for this.

  21. As the spouse of someone who would be dead twice over if not for ready access to pregnancy termination (well, maybe just disabled once and dead once) I take exception to the notion that carrying a pregnancy to term is automatically riskfree, or even that risks can be known far enough in advance to avoid significant morbidity.

    My particular set of comparisons, meanwhile, was to medical conditions which, although risky and uncomfortable, can be managed nonsurgically with morbidities and mortalities roughly comparable to the surgical outcomes. Yet no one calls those surgeries elective; they simply call them the treatment that patient and doctor have decided would be best in that particular case.

  22. To paraphrase "Inherit The Wind," they sure are growing an odd crop of libertarians this season. The current representative appears suddenly not to believe in freedom of choice. And apparently has never heard of the enormous problems with the foster care systems in many US states such that, yes, giving a child up is actually the worse option.

  23. Contraception is readily available at military bases. This is not a lack of access to contraception issue.

  24. "You’d find it easier to kill a child, than give it up? That’s an amazing act of.. something."

    Change "child" to "zygote/collection of cells/non-person/etc." and we have a deal.

    I think the serious conflict is between those who don't think it is immoral to kill a fetus and those who think it is, yet acknowledge that it is a personal and subjective moral judgment, based more on intuition than evidence or reason and not something you can force others to agree to.

    The rest are dogmatists who, by definition, aren't really thinking at all.

    When thinking about abortion I'm reminded of how this logic might lead me to think that the factory farm slaughter of billions of animals has caused more pain and suffering than every abortion ever undertaken. By the logic of the anti-choice, this is all murder. By rights justice ought be done. I ought to pull a Tiller at the nearest Taco Bell. But despite the seeming logical consistency of that line of reasoning, the pure idiocy of the conclusion reminds me of how foolish and stubborn the anti-choice argument is.

    Now, if we could somehow limit the slaughter of animals to in utero, when the animal is unable to really suffer, some amount of justice might indeed prevail…

  25. A father of teenage daughters once told me he believed that abortion should be legal until age 18. I wouldn't go quite that far, but it seems pretty obvious that to kill a child is murder (mercy killing aside), while to eliminate a fetus is not murder. And the dividing line between the two is, of course, birth.

    You may believe that terminating a fetus is equivalent to killing a human being, but arbitrarily extending the definition of "child" doesn't automatically prove your case.

  26. The dividing line between the two is, obviously, viability. Because that's the point at which you could give birth without the baby dying, at which it's presence in the woman is optional. Prior to viability I'm fine with abortion, though I think it's a piss poor form of birth control. After that, you're not killing the baby to cease being pregnant, you're doing it to kill the baby.

  27. Well, now we know what it is about which we disagree. Your arbitrary line is drawn at fetal viability – which you presumably have a way to reliably determine – and mine is drawn at first breath. OK. Now let's agree that you can live by your arbitrary principle, and I can abide by mine, and everything will be just fine.

    I'll happily add that we do agree on at least one thing – abortion is not the optimal method of birth control. Obviously, non-surgical solutions are almost always preferable when available.

    However, I still object to your altered diction. You can call a fetus viable, you can even call it valuable, but please don't call it a child. That's just harming the English language.

  28. The viability criterion as something monotonic and easily measurable went out sometime around Louise Brown. And the problem with "viability-given-extreme-measures" as a milepost for forbidding abortion is that a) it keeps moving and is utterly dependent on the crapshoot of infant, hospital and phase of the moon and b) it doesn't really make sense any more — the fact that a fetus could survive outside the womb is a reason to forcibly restrain women so that they keep the baby inside their womb for another few months? Back when the measures weren't so extraordinary, it might have made sense to consider something that could breathe and take in nourishment independently as a plausible candidate for personhood, but between TPN and ventilators and surfactants and automatic cardiac stimulation you don't need a lot of there there.

  29. You'd call it a child if it were outside the womb; Why give it a different name on the basis of where it happens to be located? Again, though, I'm fine with the term 'fetus' pre-viability.

    Oh, and by "viability", I'm not talking heroic measures. Obviously at some point the technology at both ends will meet in the middle, and it would be silly to call a fertilized egg a "baby" just because you've invented an artificial womb.

  30. And how do folks rectify that a person can be charged with a double homicide if they kill a pregnant woman and yet a doctor can't be prosecuted for performing a legal abortion? So we recognize a fetus as a human life situation but not in another

  31. Easy, Bux. We rectify that by eliminating the silly laws that define killing a pregnant women as killing multiple people, where such laws exist. They're hardly universal and are, in fact, mostly rather recent abominations pushed by the religious right (e.g. the Bush-era Federal "Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004"). And they do indeed cry out for rectification. They make no more moral sense than would laws proscribing harsher punishment for murdering a more productive person vs., say, murdering a dirty panhandler.

    A pregnant women who intends to give birth is still only one person. The relative tragic magnitude of killing a pregnant women vs. killing anyone else is simple not relevant here – murder is murder, regardless of the status of the victim. I may feel more sympathy for a more pregnant, or more attractive, or more-like-me victim than I would for others, but such feelings should play no part in a murder prosecution, or in any resulting punishment.

  32. I am a libertarian-leaning, partisan Democrat, a sex-positive supporter of abortion rights, and a private practitioner with decades of experience in constitutional law. If Congress enacts the change that the linked NYT article describes, that will be a good thing for the brave women in our armed forces who become pregnant.

    It is grossly inaccurate, however, to say that access to abortion services is a constitutional right. The right to choose abortion presupposes a willing provider, but does not compel anyone to undergo nor to perform an abortion procedure. The constitutional right to free speech does not require the government to furnish a public address system. The right to keep and bear arms does not require the government to sell guns. The Fourth Amendment right to be secure in one's home does not require the government to sell or lease housing to a buyer or tenant.

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