Tuesday, March 23, 2010
CBS News: Stupak: Randy Neugebauer Should Apologize on House Floor for "Baby Killer" Remark, by Michelle Levi:
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) called on Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer to apologize on the House floor for calling out "baby killer" during Stupak's speech on Sunday night in support of the health care bill which passed.
"Randy did call and apologize. He said it wasn't directed towards me personally. Well, if that's the case then it must have been directed to the rest of the members of the House. I would hope Randy would just clear it up and take to the House of the Floor and say, 'look I didn't mean to offend anyone. If I did, I apologize,' Stupak said on "Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's daily politics Web show. . . .
NY Times: After Obama Signs the Bill, What Next?, by David M. Herszenhorn:
Most of the major provisions in the health care legislation do not take effect for months, if not years.
Even some popular changes that Democrats are touting as “immediate benefits,” such as allowing adult dependent children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies, do not actually take effect for six months.
But when President Obama signs the Senate bill into law at the White House in just a few minutes on Tuesday morning, there are some provisions that take effect instantly upon enactment of the legislation.
At the moment Mr. Obama signs the law, states will be required to maintain their existing Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage based on policies currently in effect. While states can expand their programs, they are not allowed to cut back on eligibility and are not allowed to put in place any paperwork requirements that would make it harder for people to sign up for coverage, according to Jocelyn A. Guyer, co-executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. . . .
Monday, March 22, 2010
Guttmacher Institute news release: New White House Initiative Overhauls U.S. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts:
Requires Programs to Be Effective, Age-Appropriate and Medically Accurate, But Key Details Remain Unresolved
The $114.5 million teen pregnancy prevention initiative signed into law by President Obama in December 2009 marks a major turning point in U.S. sex education policy, according to a new analysis published in the Winter 2010 issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review. The initiative replaces many of the most rigid and ineffective abstinence-only programs, which by law were required to have nonmarital abstinence promotion as their “exclusive purpose” and were prohibited from discussing the benefits of contraception.
However, this welcome course correction is tempered somewhat by the late-breaking news that congressional leaders appear to have agreed—per a provision in the final version of the health care reform legislation moving through Congress—to resuscitate the Title V abstinence-only program for five years (see below for more information on this program).
In sharp contrast to the failed abstinence-only policies of the past, the new approach championed by the White House will focus on programs that have demonstrated their effectiveness, and all funded programs will be required to be age-appropriate and medically accurate.
“The administration’s teen pregnancy prevention initiative is an important victory for evidence-based policy-making,” says Heather Boonstra, author of the new analysis. “The next step is critical—finalizing implementation details and regulations that determine which specific programs get funded.” . . .
Wash. Post: Obama to sign health-care bill into law Tuesday, by Shailagh Murray, Lori Montgomery & Scott Wilson:
President Obama will sign landmark health-care legislation into law Tuesday at the White House without waiting for the Senate to deal with a package of revisions that was also approved by the House late Sunday, administration officials said.
Officials unveiled the plan to use a White House signing ceremony to showcase the benefits of the health-care overhaul after a divided House passed the Senate-approved bill and the separate revisions, known as a reconciliation bill, in a marathon Sunday session that culminated more than a year of political discord over Obama's signature domestic initiative. By a 219-212 vote, the House approved the Senate bill, handing Democrats a historic victory in a long-running battle to reform the nation's $2.5 trillion health-care system. The vote for the reconciliation bill was 220-211. No Republican voted for either measure. . . . .
National Abortion Federation press release: NAF Calls for Redefinition of What Being Pro-Choice Means: Status Quo Harms Millions of Low-Income Women:
Statement of Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF):Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed historic health care reform legislation. And while we agree that the health care system is certainly broken, it is unfortunate that reform continued the discrimination against our country’s most vulnerable women.
Health care reform was intended to expand comprehensive health care coverage for millions of Americans. Abortion care is basic health care for women and should not be treated differently from any other health care service, yet restrictions like the Hyde Amendment seriously limit women’s access to care. Although it has been the status quo for more than 30 years, the Hyde Amendment is a harmful, unacceptable policy that discriminates against millions of women who rely on the government for the rest of their health care.
While many of us feel very strongly that public funding restrictions need to be lifted, the pro-choice community did not attempt to use health care reform as a vehicle to advance this important goal. Now that reform has been passed, it is time for pro-choice leaders in the private and public sectors to come together to truly address the inequalities in access to abortion care and work to repeal the Hyde Amendment.
Every month, our toll-free Hotline receives thousands of calls from women who are unable to afford the abortion care they need. We recently heard from a woman who was fleeing an abusive relationship and although she had Medicaid, it wouldn’t cover her abortion; a full-time college student who was selling her textbooks to raise money for her procedure because health insurance through school didn’t cover abortion care; a rape victim and mother who was pawning her possessions in order to afford an abortion; an unemployed mother of four who was facing eviction and suicidal because she could not afford an abortion; and a single mother raising a child with a disability, who was employed and on Medicaid, but unable to afford the cost of the abortion care she needed.
In a fair and just society, we cannot continue to discriminate against our poorest women and their families. It’s time to redefine what being pro-choice means in this country. You can’t be pro-choice and deny low-income women the same access to abortion care as wealthier women.
While passing health care reform was important, it is critical that the President and our pro-choice allies in Congress now turn to protecting the health and rights of low-income women and begin to work toward the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. All women—regardless of their economic status—deserve equal access to the abortion care they need.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Nebraska Anti-Abortion Legislators More Focused on Denying Services to "Illegal Immigrants" than on Promoting Fetal Health
LA Times: In Nebraska, issues of immigration and abortion collide, by DeeDee Correll:
Nebraska long has regarded itself as a staunchly antiabortion state.
But for months, the state has wrestled with an issue that pits its signature conviction against another belief -- that illegal immigrants should not receive tax-supported services.
So two viewpoints collided with this question: Should Nebraska pay for prenatal care for the unborn children of illegal immigrants?
For many, the answer is an unqualified yes. "We don't accept that borders should be put ahead of babies," said Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life.
But others say that people in the country illegally should not reap state benefits. A bill that would have made prenatal care available for illegal immigrants was withdrawn last week in the Legislature. . . .
Salon: Catholic healthcare scoreboard: Nuns and laity 2, bishops 0, by Mary Ann Sorrentino:
Bishops have fought healthcare reform. Nuns have backed it. Once again, it's the women who are showing the way.
The healthcare reform debate in Congress has brought to the fore a sharp division within the Catholic Church. The lines are drawn by gender: Catholic bishops focused on the unborn on one side; Catholic nuns advocating for the already-born on the other.
The bishops have opposed President Obama’s healthcare reform plan on the grounds that it does too little to guard against public money being used for abortion. But the nuns have taken a broader view and backed the plan.Not since October 7, 1984 when an historic New York Times ad sponsored by Catholics for Free Choice -- with 97 nuns, priests, theologians and feminists signing on to defy Rome and defend vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro's pro-choice position -- has there been such a public battle. . . .
Catholics for Choice press release: Healthcare Reform: One Step Forward for America; One Step Back for Women's Rights:
. . . Ever since the election, the Democratic Party has said that it would rely on evidence-based policies to reduce the need for abortion and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections. In yet another broken promise, this time to America's youth, the Democrats have agreed to refund abstinence-only-until-marriage sexuality education policies. The party leadership caved to pressure from the conservatives within its own ranks in giving taxpayer money to programs that do not work.
Now, to add insult to injury, President Obama has agreed at the last moment to issue an Executive Order that extended the antichoice elements of this already restrictive law. He extended refusal rights of a kind that he had previously denounced when they were introduced by President George W. Bush. he also extended the Hyde Amendment, which bans all federal funding of abortion, to the newly-created health insurance exchanges.
In short, we were assured that nobody would be worse off under a reformed system. On each of these points, the American people have been misled.
That is not to say the bill does not improve the healthcare situation for many millions of women and their families. Catholics for Choice believes that providing healthcare is a matter of social justice and we have been a strong supporter of comprehensive healthcare reform so that those with no coverage or inadequate coverage can afford and receive the care they need. . . .
But let us be clear that reforming the health insurance system has led to a significant tightening of restrictions on coverage for abortions. Both sides had a tacit agreement that the battle over healthcare reform would not become a battle over abortion. However, the Congressional Democratic leadership allowed the antichoice lobby to amend the final legislation with the result that it will be almost impossible to get coverage for abortions, even with one's own money. The Democratic Party has a prochoice platform, yet its leaders chose to deal away women's rights in order to pass a law that is supposed to improve healthcare. Shame on them. . . .
NY Times: House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama, by Robert Pear & David M. Herszenhorn:
WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval on Sunday to legislation that would provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation’s health care system along the lines proposed by President Obama.
By a vote of 219 to 212, the House passed the bill after a day of tumultuous debate that echoed the epic struggle of the last year. The action sent the bill to President Obama, whose crusade for such legislation has been a hallmark of his presidency. . . .
After a year of partisan combat and weeks of legislative brinksmanship, House Democrats and the White House clinched their victory only hours before the voting started on Sunday. They agreed to a deal with opponents of abortion rights within their party to reiterate in an executive order that federal money provided by the bill could not be used for abortions, giving the Democrats the final votes. . . .
Read the text of the Executive Order here.
Friday, March 19, 2010
As state and local anti-discrimination provisions become more and more comprehensive, physicians who refuse to treat patients for reasons of sexual orientation or marital status are beginning to face legal liability. Increasingly, physicians are invoking codes of medical ethics alongside more familiar constitutional law claims in support of their claim to insulation from legal liability. This Article explores what medical ethics has to say about physicians who, for sincerely held religious reasons, refuse to treat patients for reasons of sexual orientation or marital status. The issue is explored through the lens of a case recently decided by the California Supreme Court in which infertility physicians refused to help a lesbian couple have a child with the aid of artificial insemination. Through a close examination of the provisions of medical ethics codes and the arguments based on those codes raised in the California case, this Article concludes that medical societies should not support carving out an exception from anti-discrimination laws for physicians who, for reasons of religious conscience, want to express their class-based biases in the clinic. . . .
New Study Shows that Giving Women Advance Supply of Emergency Contraception Alone Does Not Prevent Pregnancy
Salon.com: Morning-after pill only works if you take it, by Tracy Clark-Flory:
A study finds that an advanced supply of emergency contraception alone doesn't do much good to prevent pregnancy
When it comes to pregnancy prevention, there are certain solutions that seem obvious: Spread the word about safe sex, make contraception easily accessible and arm women with back up measures like Plan B. But, according to a recent study, giving women an advanced supply of the morning-after pill doesn't help prevent pregnancies.
The Cochrane Group, a U.K.-based non-profit, looked at 11 international trials involving a total of more than 7,500 women and found that having a stash of emergency contraception didn't have any impact on pregnancy rates. The women weren't any more likely or any less likely to get pregnant. It goes against common sense -- you would think, as many reproductive policy wonks have argued, that preparedness is key. But the BBC explains the laughably obvious: "The policy fails if women choose not to take the pills." Why did they choose not to take the pills? Now that's a question for another study. . . .
Huffington Post: Whoa Canada, by Suzanne Ehlers:
Canada did its best this week to act like George W. Bush. The government excluded family planning from a new maternal health initiative for developing countries it planned to launch at the G8 meeting in June. Like a minority in our country, their Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon claimed that access to contraception is irrelevant to his goal of saving mothers and infants. After a quick public backlash, he edited his talking points, but still refused to acknowledge that family planning saves lives. . . .
Under the last three Republican Presidents, the United States implemented the Global Gag Rule, which shuttered health clinics across Africa denying women's access to safe health care services and a proven method for preventing maternal mortality. Canada should not have even hinted at parroting this stale policy at the G8. . . .
Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report: Canadian Prime Minister Says He's Open To Including Contraception In G8 Plan For Improving Maternal, Child Health:
"Facing a squall of condemnation from aid groups and opposition politicians," following statements by Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon that Canada's G8 maternal and child health initiative would not include family planning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper "disavowed his foreign minister Thursday, promising that the federal government would include contraception programs in its maternal-health foreign-aid initiative," the Globe and Mail reports.
"The government is seeking a dialogue with the countries of the G8 to save the lives of mothers and children all over the world," Harper said during an address to the House of Commons. "We are not closing the door to any option, and that includes contraception, but we do not want a debate, here or elsewhere, on abortion" (Ibbitson, 3/18). . . .
Newsweek Magazine: Message in a Bottle, by Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert:
The subtle ads for drug giant Glaxo's new cervical-cancer drugs have people talking.
Have you seen this ad? A young woman follows a mysterious stream of glitter up an elaborate staircase. She is mesmerized by a dazzling perfume bottle that should be filled with something wonderfully alluring. Instead, as a cloud of mist clears, we realize that the bottle is emblazoned with the chilling words CERVICAL CANCER. The announcer apologizes, then explains that disguising the message as a perfume ad was the best way to draw viewers' attention to a disease they need to know more about.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Or is there? . . .
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Slate Magazine: Greening the Crimson Tide, by Nina Shen Rastogi:
What's the environmental impact of my period?
According to the new book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of "pads, plugs, and applicators" in her lifetime. That sounds like a lot. But how much is 300 pounds in the grand scheme of things? Consider that the average American woman menstruates for 38 years—a period during which she can be expected to produce a grand total of 62,415 pounds of garbage (PDF). Thus, during your fertile years, period-related detritus should make up about 0.5 percent of your personal landfill load.
Is that worth fretting over? . . .
National Geographic: "Pregnant" Fish Fathers Abort Babies of Unsexy Females, by Helen Scales:
That's because "pregnant" pipefish fathers will kill off embryos conceived by an undesirable female to make room for the offspring of a potentially more attractive female. . . .
Scientists already knew that when paired up with a small—and thus unattractive—mate, a male pipefish will deliberately abandon some or all of its brood, absorbing nutrients from the doomed embryos.
It was previously thought that malnourished males needed the nutrients from the developing embryos. But new research on Gulf pipefish suggests the pregnant pipefish abandon embryos in hopes of finding sexier mates. . . .
Colorado Activists Say They've Gathered Enough Signatures to Place Ballot Initiative to Ban Abortion on Fall Ballot
TheDenverChannel.com: Abortion Foes Say They've Cleared Petition Bar:
Abortion opponents in Colorado say they have enough signatures to restore a ballot question on banning abortion.
Personhood USA says it has met the number of signatures due Thursday. . . .
The group hopes to place the abortion amendment on ballots this fall. If approved, it would effectively ban abortion by giving rights to fetuses. . . .
A similar initiative was defeated in 2008.
Wash. Post: Dissent among Catholics seen as nuns' groups back health bill, by Michelle Boorstein:
Recent public statements in favor of the health-care bill by the head of a major Catholic health organization and a group of nuns have given American Catholics a rare look at public disagreement among church leaders.
Experts on religion, politics and the Catholic Church said they could not remember the last time leading figures within the church so publicly contradicted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the official voice of the church in the United States.
Smaller Catholic advocacy groups span the ideological spectrum, but in this case the figures strongly challenging the bishops represent the vast majority of the roughly 59,000 American nuns and most U.S. Catholic hospitals. . . .
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Wash. Post: Insurers report on use of abortion riders, by Peter Slevin:
CHICAGO -- In North Dakota, where insurers can cover abortions if customers pay a separate premium, the state's largest provider says it sells no abortion policies because no one has asked to buy one.
Amid a high-stakes debate over abortion that could determine the fate of President Obama's health-care initiative, North Dakota's law offers a test because it is much like the language favored by antiabortion lawmakers on Capitol Hill, notably Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).
"There's not a lot to tell. We have no member who elected to have abortion riders," said Denise Kolpack, vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, which covers about 80 percent of the North Dakota market. "We would be legally bound to provide an offering, but we have no groups that have requested it."
Similar policies are in place in Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho and Oklahoma. . . .
The New Yorker: After Stevens, by Jeffrey Toobin:
What will the Supreme Court be like without its liberal leader?
Supreme Court Justices are remembered for their opinions, but they are revealed by their questions. For many years, Sandra Day O’Connor chose to open the questioning in most cases, and thus show the lawyers—and her colleagues—which way she, as the Court’s swing vote, was leaning. Today, Antonin Scalia often jumps in first, signalling the intentions of the Court’s ascendant conservative wing, and sometimes Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., makes his views, which are usually aligned with Scalia’s, equally clear. New Justices tend to defer to their senior colleagues, but Sonia Sotomayor, in her first year on the Court, has displayed little reluctance to test lawyers on the facts and the procedural posture of their cases; these kinds of questions had generally been the province of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who, at times, has not seemed entirely pleased by the newcomer’s vigor. Samuel A. Alito, Jr., often says little; Clarence Thomas never says anything. (Thomas has not asked a question at an oral argument since 2006.)
John Paul Stevens, who will celebrate his ninetieth birthday on April 20th, generally bides his time. Stevens is the Court’s senior Justice, in every respect. He is thirteen years older than his closest colleague in age (Ginsburg) and has served eleven years longer than the next most experienced (Scalia). Appointed by President Gerald R. Ford, in 1975, Stevens is the fourth-longest-serving Justice in the Court’s history; the record holder is the man Stevens replaced, William O. Douglas, who retired after thirty-six and a half years on the bench. Stevens is a generation or two removed from most of his colleagues; when Roberts served as a law clerk to William H. Rehnquist, Stevens had already been a Justice for five years. . . .
Saying "I take this vote with the utmost seriousness," Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) announced Wednesday morning that he will vote for the health-care bill now before the House, despite his reservations.
"I know I have to make a decision not on the bill as I would like to see it but on the bill as it is," said the congressman, who met with President Obama on Air Force One earlier this week about his opposition to the bill.
"I have doubts about this bill," Kucinich said at a news conference he called to announce his decision to vote yes, adding: "This is not the bill I wanted to support."
"However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elisabeth and close friends I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation," he announced. . . .