First: The voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
defeated a proposal on Tuesday that would have outlawed most late-term abortions in New Mexico's largest city in the first test of such a measure on a municipal ballot in the United States.
The measure, which would have barred doctors within city limits from performing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, unless a mother's life was in danger, was rejected 55 percent to 45 percent.
The proposed 20-week cutoff on abortions in the Albuquerque measure allowed for few of the exemptions permitted in most late-term abortion bans enacted in other states in recent years. It contained no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and would have waived the ban only to save a mother's life or if continuing her pregnancy risked "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."
Abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are rare. I believe that the attacks on this group of abortions is because if people who are carrying a fetus likely to die in the womb or live only a short time after birth can be forced to continue the pregnancy, how are we going to justify some general right to reproductive choice?
On the whole, this refusal of the Albuquerque voters to go along with that is a good thing.
Second, the Supremes have turned down an appeal to block the Texas law which requires all physicians who perform abortions to have hospital admitting rights within 30 miles of the clinic. The decision went down along ideological lines. The practical goal and effect of the law is to make abortion unavailable in lots of places in that state. Charlie Pierce writes on the SCOTUS decision:
For all of this, of course, we can thank Justice Anthony Kennedy, for nobody is more comfortable on this issue in the alternate universe than is the court's weathervane. It was Kennedy who wrote the majority decision in Gonzales v. Carhart in which he memorably sought to spare the delicate flower of American womanhood from the trauma of exercising its constitutional right to one specific kind of abortion procedure that he, Anthony Kennedy, found to be icky. He then found that his personal concern for the delicate flower of American womanhood was not an "undie burden" on the women who needed the procedure that he found to be icky. His conscience was not an "undue burden" on them. The "undue burden" standard comes to us from the earlier Casey decision which carved a loophole in Roe v. Wade through which you can sail the Nimitz. Now the majority of the court has determined that a law specifically designed to ban all abortions de facto in the state of Texas does not place an "undue burden" on women in Texas who want to obtain one.
Pierce believes that Roe (the Supreme Court decision on which the right to abortions is based) is doomed. I both agree and disagree. The current court (with its Republican majority) could easily kill Roe, no doubt about that. But whether it will choose to do so depends on strategic thinking. If abortions were made essentially illegal in this country, what would the single-issue forced-birth voters do who now vote for the Republican candidates? Some of them might turn their whole effort towards getting birth control banned, what with its power of emancipating women, but most might stop to be very interested in politics. I'm not sure if Republicans want that outcome.
Third, these news from the UK (a week ago) are not really about the vaginas but the vulvas. But still important for understanding the lives of vagina-carriers:
British gynaecologists warned on Friday that increasing numbers of teenage girls and women are undergoing genital cosmetic surgery, driven in part by unrealistic images of how they should look based on pornography.
“The misapprehension arises from the prominence of just one type of ‘neat’ genital appearance, the type to be found prominently depicted in pornography,” said Thomas Baldwin, a philosopher who sits on RCOG’s ethics committee.
In a new paper, the committee expresses particular concern that teenage girls are undergoing unnecessary surgery, which is often anatomically similar to female genital mutilation — a crime in Britain.
There is very little data about the long-term risks of labiaplasty, particularly the effect it has on sensitivity and sexual function.
As a result, the committee recommends that genital cosmetic surgery not be carried out on girls under the age of 18, until their external genitalia are fully formed.
“The younger a girl begins her labiaplasty trajectory, the higher the number of operations over her lifetime and the greater the risk of scarring and sensitivity loss,” warned the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology.
It is hard to see any other cause for a five-fold increase in genital cosmetic surgery over a period of ten years than the impact of wide-spread pornography consumption on sexual expectations. That is troubling, and I cannot help wondering if pornography isn't also contributing to the Othering of girls and women*, especially if early consumption of pornography takes the place of both sex education and the learning of dating rules.
*Stories like this one or this one. Or this new one.