By Karen James
Saturday, October 15, 2005
New Hampshire Gov. John H. Lynch has departed from his state's official position on its parental notification law by taking the highly unusual step of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule his state's law is unconstitutional, his office announced Wednesday.
Lynch filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case brought by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England that challenges the constitutionality of New Hampshire's Parental Notification Act. The act requires a 48-hour waiting period after the parents of minors seeking abortions have been notified and was struck down by two state courts. New Hampshire's Republican attorney general Kelly Ayotte then appealed to the Supreme Court, where the case awaits final decision.
In his brief to the Court, Lynch says that the law contains no exception to allow health practitioners to act in an emergency. Additionally, the act holds no emergency health provision and does not protect physicians from criminal liability in the event of performing a life-saving abortion without at least 48 hours advance notice to parents.
"As governor, I have a duty to stand up for the health and lives of our citizens," Lynch, a pro-choice Democrat, said. "That is why I am filing this brief. Two lower courts have already found this law unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court should do the same."
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law on Oct. 7 that bans the practice of shackling female inmates during labor, delivery and recovery. Female inmates typically give birth in locked hospital wards under the supervision of armed guards. The law also makes it illegal to deny inmates prenatal and postpartum care, access to vitamins or basic dental cleanings.
Women are the fastest growing segment of the national prison population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Between 1995 and 2004, the average annual increase among women in prison was 5 percent as compared to 3.3 percent for men. There were over 103,000 women incarcerated in prisons in 2004.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families announced on Tuesday that it will award $37 million to qualifying abstinence-only education programs across the nation.
To qualify for federal funding, educational programs must teach that sexual activity should occur only within marriage. Additionally, they may not discuss contraception other than to emphasize its failure rates.
The announcement follows the Bush administration's refusal last month to release $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund for international women's health and family planning in 146 countries and territories. Funding has now been withheld for four years in a row.
Support for abstinence-only education programs has also fueled a new campaign from the Pro-Life Action League attacking the popular American Girl dolls. The dolls' maker, California-based Mattel Inc., has partnered with the esteem-building non-profit Girls Inc., based in New York, in a fundraiser to sell 70-cent bracelets that encourage girls to believe in themselves. The league says that Girls Inc. promotes abortion, lesbianism and "easy access to birth control" at the expense of abstinence-only programs.
"Parents need to know that this effort to promote self-esteem among girls is not as innocent as it seems," said the league's director, Ann Scheidler.
Findings from a telephone survey of 1,200 employed adults conducted by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence found that intimate partner violence seriously affects the working lives of Americans.
Conducted between July and September 2005, the survey found that 44 percent of those surveyed had personally experienced the effects of domestic violence in their workplaces. Twenty-one percent of those surveyed (both men and women) reported being victims of intimate partner violence, of which 64 percent said that their ability to work had been affected.
Among the victims, one-third said their employers provide no support for domestic violence and two-thirds said they were unaware of any workplace domestic violence policy.
Karen James is a Women's eNews intern and master's candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.