As Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan begins her second week of confirmation hearings, Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer wonders why the anti-abortion protesters have been uncharacteristically subdued this time around. Normally, they live for these hearings. For hardcore anti-choice activists, a Supreme Court confirmation is like Christmas, Mardi Gras, and the World Cup all rolled into one.

Mencimer suspects that the antis were caught off guard by a revelation about Kagan’s role in shaping a proposed partial birth abortion ban. Documents show that as a White House policy adviser Kagan worked with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to craft the organization’s position on the whether partial birth abortion is ever medically necessary.

ACOG and “partial birth abortion”

ACOG originally wrote that its experts “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” In short, ACOG dodged the question. As far as a health exemption is concerned, the is whether this procedure is ever the best option, not the only option.

The right is accusing Kagan of distorting science for political reasons. In fact, Kagan didn’t distort the science at all. Like any good law professor, she suggested that ACOG restate the same idea in language that was more germane to the question at hand. It seems unlikely that the ACOG revelation will have a significant effect on Kagan’s confirmation prospects.

ACOG told Kagan that the procedure is almost never medically necessary. The key words here are “almost never,” which imply that the procedure is sometimes necessary. Documents show that Kagan urged ACOG to clarify its position.

She suggested the following language, which ACOG incorporated into its position statement: “[the procedure] may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman.” This episode is a sore point for anti-choicers because the courts have deferred to ACOG’s opinions on questions of medical necessity.

According to Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, the Republicans are still trying to derail Kagan’s nomination by painting her as evasive. It’s already a cliche to point out that Supreme Court confirmation hearings are a charade in which the nominee’s job is to reveal as little as possible about her judicial philosophy.

Republicans are unlikely to summon much public outrage against Kagan for playing by the rules. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Kagan next Tuesday, and the leadership wants a full vote before Aug 6.

Ending the CPC bait-and-switch

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has re-introduced a bill to stop false advertising by so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), as Noelle Williams reports for Ms. Magazine’s blog. CPCs are anti-abortion propaganda outlets (“ministries”) that try to pass themselves off as storefront women’s health clinics. Some CPCs advertise in the abortion services section of the phone book alongside real providers. They’ve even been known to set up shop across the street from a real clinic.

The phony “clinics” lure women with promises of free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and referrals for abortion and contraception services—but that’s just a prelude to a hard sell against abortion. A Congressional investigation found that CPCs routinely give false information about the dangers of abortion. Maloney’s bill would end the bait-and-switch. The Stop Deceptive Advertising Women’s Services Act (SDAW) would crack down CPCs that falsely advertise that they provide abortion services or referrals.

Contraceptives covered under health reform?

Thanks to health care reform, insurers may soon be offering contraceptives at no extra cost. However, as Monica Potts notes at TAPPED, the women’s groups clamoring for free birth control are facing an uphill battle against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other conservative groups. The USCCB is trotting out the old line that contraceptives aren’t preventative health care because fertility is not a disease. Potts notes the age old irony that groups so fiercely opposed to abortion are still fighting birth control.

UN addresses gender equity

In international news, the United Nations announced the launch of a new umbrella agency to promote women’s rights and gender equity. Vanessa Valenti of Feministing explains that the UN is actually merging four existing women’s rights bodies into a single organization. Valenti is concerned that local concerns will get lost in a new monolithic bureaucracy. However, she notes that the groups in the merger seem very happy about the prospect of joining forces.

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Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Byerstein writes about health care for the Media Wire project. She is a freelance investigative journalist and photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her reporting has appeared in Salon, Slate,...