This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Uncertain Future of Women's Reproductive Rights in the U.S.

Among the many uncertainties associated with Donald Trump's election, especially when combined with the continued Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, is what will happen to women's reproductive rights in this country? Despite the fact that abortion has been legal in the U.S. for more than four decades, opponents have ramped up their attacks on abortion providers over time in a clear effort to scare away physicians and patients alike. One of the people sounding the alarm in a very personal way is Dr. Warren Hern, who runs an abortion clinic in Boulder, Colorado. Demographers know him for his excellent and ground-breaking work on fertility among the Shipibo people in Peru. That research helped him to earn a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Carolina, Chapel Hill, but most of his professional life has been dedicated to helping women who needed an abortion. Yesterday, he published an online letter of concern:
I have survived, but some of my colleagues and friends have been murdered by anti-abortion fanatics.
Donald Trump has said that women should be punished for having abortions. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, has used attacks on abortion as the principal focus of his public career.
In fact, one week ago I received a chilling letter from Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the most ferociously anti-abortion member of Congress, who chairs the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
The letter demanded that I submit a wide variety of documents, including patient medical records in cases of gestations greater than 22 weeks. I have until Nov. 21 to comply.
The panel is looking for evidence that I am selling “baby body parts.” It has the power of subpoena and can cite me for contempt of Congress if I don’t comply by the deadline.
It is frightening. It is a witch hunt.
I am a physician helping patients, and I am being treated like a criminal.
The star chamber proceedings of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives is a target identification program for the anti-abortion assassins. It is terrifying.
At a deeper level, I have no confidence that Trump and the current Republican leadership will protect my life and liberty because of the work I do to help women. Their public harassment of me increases my risk of assassination.
We should all be terrified that the situation is already this bad for physicians performing abortions. Whether or not you are in favor of abortion, the fact that it is legal means that no one should fear for their life to be either physician or patient--and it seems likely that the situation will get worse before (or if) it ever gets better. 

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