The Last Abortion Clinic
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Abortion Clinic Owner
This woman has run an abortion clinic in the Deep South for more than two decades. FRONTLINE agreed, because of security concerns and as a condition of filming, not to identify her or the state in which her clinic is located. In this interview, she expresses her weariness after years of struggling to keep her clinic open and her feeling that abortion clinics in the South are being "triaged" and that not enough people are fighting to help poor women access abortion. She also talks about the effects of state-mandated clinic regulations. "They're not about providing safe abortion care," she says. "That's not what these regs are about. They're about restricting access or closing down clinics." And she is critical of what she sees as a "disconnect between the pre-born and the post-born" in the pro-life movement. "It seems that so many of these groups, so many of the hardliners, when they say, 'I'm pro-life,' they mean, 'I support the pregnancy in utero,' in the uterus. But I see so little sustenance and support for women and children, particularly poor women and children. Those are the ones that are castigated and blamed."

Jack Balkin
Balkin is a professor of constitutional law at Yale Law School and the editor of What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said, a collection of essays in which several of the nation's top legal experts rewrite the controversial Supreme Court decision. In this interview, he describes the evolution of American abortion law through major Supreme Court decisions from Roe to the present, and the surrounding political debates that affected and informed those decisions. "[T]he story of abortion rights doesn't begin with the Supreme Court, and it doesn't end with the Supreme Court," says Balkin. "Rather, there is a back-and-forth between the political process and the Supreme Court, and over time, the law of abortion changes." He also explicates exactly what's at stake in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the blockbuster abortion case the Supreme Court will hear this fall.

Barbara Beavers
She is the director of the Center for Pregnancy Choices, a Christian-affiliated, pro-life center in Jackson, Miss. Since opening in 1988, more than 11,000 women with unplanned pregnancies have visited the center, where, in addition to receiving pregnancy tests and counseling, they can attend prenatal, sex education and parenting classes. Their attendance at these classes can be used as currency toward purchasing infant and maternity products available in the center's "store." Here, Beavers describes some of the practices the center employs for convincing women not to terminate their pregnancies, including using sonograms in counseling, providing assistance during the baby's first year, and refusing to refer to abortion clinics. She also explains the center's Christian background and approach, and why it doesn't teach about birth control or refer for adoptions. "… [O]ur mission statement [is] to deal with a woman who has an unplanned pregnancy," she explains. "And her choices are abortion, adoption, parenting. She has basically those three choices, and we want to give her full information about all those choices."

Terry Herring
Herring is the president of Pro-Life Mississippi. The group, which is the state's most powerful pro-life organization, has helped pass at least 15 pro-life laws and helped close down five abortion clinics in Mississippi. The group's current target is the state's last abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization. "[P]eople are faithful to be there when the doors are open, and it makes it very uncomfortable," Herring tells FRONTLINE. "And I think it should be uncomfortable to go in someplace and kill your unborn baby." Herring says the pro-life movement needs to make abortion socially unacceptable. "To me, [our] laws reflect our morals," she says. "… It's not OK for a black person to drink at a different water fountain. It's not OK to go to the back of the bus. Well, it's not OK to kill unborn babies. It's just not OK."

Bonnie Scott Jones
She is an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, a non-profit organization based in New York which works worldwide to protect and advance reproductive choice. Through the center, Jones represents the sole abortion provider in the state of Mississippi, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, and is challenging state regulations that she says threatens the clinic's existence. She calls these laws, which regulate medical practices, facilities, and administration, TRAP laws, short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, because "… they are health facility regulations that apply only to physicians that provide abortions and not to physicians that provide any comparable procedures." In this interview, she tells FRONTLINE about the effects of these laws on women in Mississippi and elsewhere and explains how they are creating a two-tiered system of abortion access that harkens back to the days before legalized abortion. "It is the women with resources who continue to be able to get abortion," says Jones, "And it is the low-income women, people in marginalized populations, people that live in rural areas, who just don't have good access to legal abortion and turn to very unhealthy alternatives."

Ted Joyce
A professor of economics and finance at Baruch College, Joyce has studied the impact of various state regulations, including mandatory waiting periods, the cutoff of Medicaid funds, and parental notification laws, on abortion rates. He tells FRONTLINE that his study of abortions in Mississippi after the state enacted a 24-hour waiting period found a 12 percent decrease in abortion rates; however the number of women who went out of state for abortions increased by 40 to 50 percent and the number of second trimester abortions also increased by 40 to 50 percent. Joyce discusses a study in which he tried to measure the effect of unwanted pregnancies on infant health. His team studied sisters in an attempt to factor out socioeconomic differences and found no difference in low birth weight or infant health. "It's poverty, again, poverty and always poverty, that is driving the differences we're seeing here, and not really unwanted pregnancy," he says. Joyce also talks about the effects of parental notification laws and the potential impact of the federal Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, passed by the House, which says that if minors cross state lines to have an abortion they should be governed by the abortion laws of their home states.

Kathryn kolbert
A reproductive rights attorney, Kolbert argued in front of the United States Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Here, she describes in detail the legal issues at stake in Casey and the implications of the Court's landmark decision, which allowed states the latitude to restrict abortion so long as they did not present an "undue burden" on the woman. Kolbert tells FRONTLINE she was very concerned that the Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. "In the scheme of what could have happened, this was a tremendous victory," she says. "Did we suffer a loss? Yes." In this interview, Kolbert also explicates other important Supreme Court decisions on abortion, including Roe, Harris v. McRae, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services and Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "I agree with the anti-abortion movement in the sense that I think there are too many abortions in the United States," Kolbert says. "… I think what we need to do as a culture is to really go back to the drawing board and say: How can we reduce the level of unintended pregnancy?"

william saletan
Saletan is the chief political correspondent for Slate and the author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War. Here, he explains why he believes the pro-life side is winning the abortion war. He says that after the Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the pro-choice movement believed the threat to abortion rights was over. "The pro-choice groups started to lose money, started to lose support, and they started to lose political offices," he explains. Saletan also talks about the two abortion issues that the Supreme Court will soon face: Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which question whether state regulations need to provide an exception for the health of the mother -- an exemption which pro-lifers see as a loophole -- and an appeal of the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.

Peter samuelson
Samuelson is the president of Americans United for Life, a non-profit law firm that writes, lobbies for and defends in the courts model legislation for states like Mississippi that "incrementally" restrict abortion within the boundaries of the Supreme Court's landmark Casey decision. He admits that Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of "banning abortion outright," but believes that once they've considered lesser restrictions -- parental notice laws, abortion clinic regulations, informed consent requirements, and rights-of-conscience protection for medical professionals -- Americans will come to the conclusion that "maybe abortion isn't a wholly good thing." "What we do with incremental laws is we invite people to think about … the negative impact of abortion on women," says Samuelson. "[W]e think that's the best way to continue a national conversation and move forward … towards a consensus that says: 'Abortion is not a necessary thing. Abortion is something we can live without.'"

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posted nov. 8, 2005

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