• A24 Films

    ‘What I Want to Do’

    Just Don’t Call It an ‘Abortion Comedy’

    Hailed as an ‘abortion comedy,’ ‘Obvious Child’ isn’t about politics—it’s about a woman’s struggle with herself as a person. This wouldn’t work without the kind humor of Jenny Slate.

    Funny, touching, and bracingly honest, Obvious Child is the story of Donna, a struggling stand-up comic who is dumped by her boyfriend, has a one-night stand with a much nicer guy (not at all her type), and gets an abortion. That makes Jenny Slate, who plays the heroine, the face of the “abortion comedy,” as the film came to be known after its premiere at Sundance.

    “I get why people do it,” Slate tells me of that label, but “I don’t think of our movie as an abortion comedy at all. It puts me off a bit just because it seems flippant, it seems like we’re being rough with the subject, when if you watch the movie it’s anything but rough with it, it’s strong and it’s gentle. But I’m happy to be the face of the movie no matter what people call it.”

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  • Rebecca Gomperts, founder of the Dutch-based Women on Waves Foundation, gives a television interview beside the abortion ship Aurora, rechristened the Sea of Change, while docked in Dublin, June 15, 2001. (Paul McErlane / Reuters)

    SXSW

    The Overseas Abortionist

    'Vessel' follows the Dutch physician who founded Women on Waves, which provides abortion services on a boat in international waters to women in countries with restrictive laws.

    Protesters call it the “Ship of Death.”

    Since 2001, Women on Waves (WoW), a Dutch non-profit organization, has chartered a yacht to countries with restrictive abortion laws. It docks in places ranging from Ireland to Morocco, and women in desperate need of abortions board the ship (sometimes in disguise), sail into international waters, and undergo a medical abortion—a non-surgical pill that combines the drugs misoprostol and mifepristone. The whole operation is possible due to a loophole in international law whereby when on a vessel in international waters, the laws of the flagship country apply. Women on Waves boat is a Dutch ship, and in the Netherlands abortion is legal up to six-and-a-half weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

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  • Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

    A Texas bill would require a three-hour class.

    A new bill in the state Senate would require Texas women to take a three-hour class on adoption in order to receive an abortion. Filed by Sen. Eddie Lucio, a pro-life Democrat, SB42 would require women to complete the course (to be designed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) a full 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. Lucio was also the only Democrat to vote for the now-infamous abortion bill signed into law in July limiting abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He has said he hopes that “when presented with more information on adoption resources and services available, more pregnancies can be carried to term.”

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  • Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty

    MAKING MOVES

    Irish President Signs First Abortion Bill

    The law would allow abortion in cases where a woman’s life is at risk.

    In devoutly Catholic Ireland, where a woman recently died because of what a jury deemed “poor care” when she was denied an abortion, there is now a law that makes abortion legal in cases where a doctor deems the mother is at risk. The country’s president, Michael D. Higgins, surprised analysts by signing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill instead of deferring it to the Supreme Court to see if it is constitutional. The law, however, does not amend the Constitution of the country, which bans abortion. According to ABC News, it's likely that abortion activists will follow through with a Supreme Court challenge. The bill aims to prevent death of pregnant mothers and to “alleviate life-threatening conditions, including a woman’s own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination.”

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  • Eric Gay/AP

    POLL

    56 Percent Support Abortion Limits

    To restrict procedure after 20 weeks.

    As lawmakers in multiple states and Washington push for new restrictions on abortion, a new poll shows Americans have complex feelings about the issue. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 56 percent of Americans think abortion should be restricted after 20 weeks rather than the 24 weeks under current law. But 54 percent also oppose laws that would restrict abortion clinics from operating. Support for legal abortion is holding strong at about 55 percent, and a majority oppose laws like the controversial bill recently passed in Texas that require abortion clinics to meet hospital standards, which often forces them to close.

    Read it at The Washington Post
  • Oedipal Issues

    Anti-Abortion Pol: Mom Doesn't Matter

    A Missouri pro-life state senator gets into a Facebook war, says the life of a mother is 'a matter of convenience.'

    Today, from the "you couldn't make this s**t up" files: pro-life Missouri state senator Brian Nieves apparently got into an abortion-themed Facebook tiff with an Anglican priest whom he mistook for a reporter from the local newspaper. If this sounds like a knock-off plotline from A Comedy of Errors, read on—the war of words came after Nieves posted a picture of a large, phallic pistol and a measuring tape on his FB feed. It's worth catching the original image here. After slamming the priest qua reporter as a hypocrite and calling liberalim a "mental disorder," Nieves raged, "You are a ‘priest’ and you speak about matters of life and death for which you don’t have an ounce of knowledge?!? Shame on you...‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience! Tell me this - Do you even know what a partial birth abortion really is? No, seriously, do you actually know what it is?? If so, explain to me what a partial birth abortion is.”

    Nieves says he was misunderstood and claims the whole incident is a matter of race-baiting because "I am a Latino man." One more time, state senator, for the cheap seats in the back.

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  • Tamir Kalifa/AP

    Stinky

    Where’s the Poo?

    After rumors of protesters trying to sneak excrement into the Texas state capitol, evidence is lacking.

    It was certainly a tense scene as Texas voted on abortion last week, but perhaps not as tense as Republicans would have us believe. It was reported that security officers had to stop pro-choicers from entering the state capitol with tampons, maxi pads, and jars of feces, presumably with the intent to throw them at the legislators and disrupt the vote. However, when reporters looked into the matter, no officers could confirm the presence of the jars, and there was no documentation of offenders. The Texas Department of Public Safety responded with a statement that the offending items were not confiscated but discarded, and said, “The names of the visitors with suspicious jars or other items were not documented as no crime had been committed.” Still, without proof, as Democratic State Rep. Donna Howard said, “it doesn’t pass the smell test.”

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  • Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Erich Schlegel/Getty)

    The Mess in Texas

    Texas’s Unwanted-Baby Boom

    Between the state's anti-abortion bill and its war on contraception and sex ed, experts predict tens of thousands of unplanned pregnancies next year, writes Amanda Marcotte.

    The war on women is a nationwide phenomenon, but nowhere are women in more danger of having their reproductive health undermined at every turn than in Texas. Under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry and a Republican Party completely in the thrall of the religious right, Christian fundamentalists have launched a three-pronged attack on the well-being of women of the state: undermine access to contraception by eliminating government funding of it, eradicate sex education so that young people don’t know how to use contraception effectively, and shut down abortion clinics so that women cannot safely and legally terminate all those unwanted pregnancies. As a result, being a woman in Texas is now a very different proposition than being a woman in a more liberal state like New York, creating the sort of inequality between citizens based on nothing but geography.

    The recent filibuster of a massive abortion bill during the first special session of the state legislature in Texas drew national attention to the attacks on abortion access in the state. While Republicans lost that round, their determination to wage war on Texas women didn’t wane, and Perry called another special session, this one just for the purpose of eliminating most of the abortion providers in the state and all providers for those living in the western half of Texas, which includes major urban areas like El Paso, Lubbock, and Midland-Odessa, as well as the entire Rio Grande Valley area. The requirements, a hodgepodge of regulations including bogus admitting privilege requirements and utterly unnecessary demands that clinics meet state standards for ambulatory surgical centers, are projected to shut down 37 of the state’s 42 clinics.

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  • Eric Gay/AP

    BACK TO WENDY

    Texas House Approves Abortion Bill

    Senate could vote on Friday.

    Wendy Davis is ready. After 10 hours of intense debate yesterday, the Texas House approved a restrictive abortion bill that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks and likely close most of the state’s clinics. A final vote in the Senate could be held as early as Friday. Two weeks ago Texas Sen. Wendy Davis had successfully filibustered for 11 hours and delayed the vote until after the legislative session had ended—which led Texas Gov. Rick Perry to declare a special session of both the House and Senate to pass the bill. Perry has vowed to sign it if it passes.

    Read it at Texas Tribune
  • Al Drago

    PINK WITH FURY

    Protests Turn Pink

    Abortion-bill demonstrators don the color for “Moral Monday.”

    The North Carolina Senate recently adopted a bill that would close all but one abortion clinic in the state—and a crowd in Raleigh reacting by wearing pink. Demonstrators, about 2,000 as estimated by police and 4,000 according to organizers, have gathered around the North Carolina legislative building for 10 Mondays now to support “Moral Mondays.” They are aiming to protest what they say is “an assault on women’s rights and access to health care,” according to The News & Observer. They have also dedicated next week to focus on women, complete with speakers who will talk about policy impact on North Carolina.

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  • Anti-abortion advocates have grown increasingly vocal recently. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

    Heartbeat Crusader

    The Abortion Warrior

    Janet Folger Porter, the woman driving the ‘heartbeat bill’ fight in Ohio, talks to Michelle Cottle.

    Even the everlasting battle for America’s soul has its hot trends. And these days, among anti-abortion-rights activists, “heartbeat bills” are all the rage. In early March, Arkansas outlawed most abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy, at which point a fetal heartbeat typically can be detected by abdominal ultrasound. Passed over the veto of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act stood as the nation’s most restrictive ban for not quite two weeks, at which point North Dakota passed an even more stringent heartbeat bill that could block abortions starting at around six weeks. Lawmakers in Mississippi and Kansas have taken steps down a similar path, while those in various other states—Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma—reportedly have expressed interest as well. Most dramatically, the Ohio legislature, where the first such bill surfaced in 2011, has been locked in a bloody battle over the issue for more than two years. Meanwhile, conservative pols from Rick Perry to Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann to Newt Gingrich are lining up in support of such efforts.

    At the center of this whirlwind stands Janet Folger Porter. A former legislative director of Ohio Right to Life, Porter is in many ways the godmother of the heartbeat movement. The inspiration for the crusade struck her in November 2010, at the funeral of her old boss from Right to Life, recalls Porter. “I was overwhelmed by the revelation that we don’t have much time on planet Earth. I thought, ‘We’ve got to end this, and we need to end it now.’” Porter immediately (yes, right there at the funeral) began rallying anti-abortion-rights colleagues, and before long she’d assembled a team of attorneys to craft a bill.

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  • Eric Gay/AP

    YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE

    Texas Abortion Bill Did Not Pass

    The vote took place after midnight.

    It might not have been easy to stand on the Texas House floor in those pink running shoes for over 10 hours, but it looks like Sen. Wendy Davis’s filibuster actually worked. Despite first claiming to have successfully passed the expansive abortion-restriction bill that Davis had attempted to stall, Republican representatives later recanted their victory, admitting that—thanks to the delay—the vote took place after midnight, when the state legislative session expired, and was marred by confusion. This is bad news for Gov. Rick Perry, who was ready to sign the bill into law as part of his goal to make abortion “a thing of the past” this year.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Mark Wilson/Getty, Mark Wilson

    FAR-REACHING

    House to Consider Sweeping Abortion Bill

    Ban on abortions after 20 weeks likely to pass.

    The Republican-led House of Representatives could kick-start a major challenge against Roe v. Wade on Tuesday, as it considers the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks. Though the House is slated to pass the bill, which the National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director called the “most significant piece of legislation to come before the House since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act”—President Obama has already threatened to veto it, though the Senate doesn’t even have plans to consider it. Still, eleven states have passed similar laws.

    Read it at Associated Press