Sunday, July 8, 2018

Abortion and Reproductive Justice Conference: The Unfinished Revolution III

AllAfrica (Jul. 6, 2018): South Africa: Social Development Co-Hosts Abortion and Reproductive Justice Conference, Press Release:

The Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction, Rhodes University, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition (South Africa), and the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, in partnership with South Africa's Department of Social Development will co-host the Abortion & Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution III conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa from July 8 - 12, 2018. 

The conference is the third in a series that began in Canada in 2014 and continued in Northern Ireland in 2016. This year's conference aims to focus the conversation and scholarship on jurisdictions where abortion access is highly restricted. It will provide a platform "for delegates to explore, identify, share and pursue learning and research opportunities on a range of issues relating to abortion and reproductive justice in context, including access to abortion, activism and abortion politics."

The conference aims to contribute to the vision of universal access to reproductive justice and will be broken down into three parts: workshops, knowledge sharing, and action discussions. It will include the voices of a Youth Committee to speak to issues particularly relevant to young people. 

The conference's presence in South Africa is notable, as, despite abortion being legal in the country, experts estimate that half the abortions that take place in South Africa are illegal due to lack of access to abortion providers. 

The South African Government's position on abortion and reproductive justice is predicated on the understanding that the decision to have children is fundamental to women's physical, psychological and social health and that universal access to reproductive health care services includes family planning and contraception, termination of pregnancy, as well as sexuality education and counselling programmes and services.

July 8, 2018 in Abortion, Conferences and Symposia, International, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Students sue University of Notre Dame for restricting access to some birth control

Washington Post (Jun. 27, 2018): Students sue University of Notre Dame for restricting access to some birth control, by Erin B. Logan: 

A Notre Dame alumna and three current student sued the university on Tuesday in the wake of Notre Dame's February 2018 announcement that it would deny access to "abortion-inducing" contraceptives. The lawsuit alleges violations of federal law and the First and Fifth Amendments. In addition to the university, the suit names the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury.

These health-care policy changes to Notre Dame's plan will affect undergraduate and graduate students as well as university employees and their dependents. The policy will go into effect on July 1 for employees and in August for students.

The roll-back of coverage by the university is a response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' fall 2017 announcement that it would rescind the Obama-era rule mandating free contraceptive coverage in health plans. This requirement currently remains in effect, though, due to judicial injunctions. Notre Dame, however, carved out an exception for itself with the federal government after a 2013 suit against the mandate claimed a violation of its moral and religious convictions.

June 29, 2018 in Contraception, Culture, In the Courts, Politics, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Steps the Next Supreme Court Might Take to Roll Back Abortion Rights

New York Magazine (Jun. 27, 2018): Steps the Next Supreme Court Might Take to Roll Back Abortion Rights, by Ed Kilgore: 

With the announcement of Justice Kennedy's imminent retirement comes the prospect of a much more conservative Supreme Court, particularly in relation to reproductive rights. Justice Kennedy stood in the majority of the 2016 Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt decision, which reaffirmed basic abortion access rights. Trump has promised to pursue the reversal of Roe v. Wade, though, and has stated his intentions to nominate a similarly-minded next justice. 

Many states have recently enacted stricter abortion access requirements--like Louisiana's legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy or Iowa's fetal heartbeat ban. "Such laws are aimed at setting up a challenge to Roe if the Supreme Court lurches to the right — which is now an imminent possibility."

While it's unlikely that, even under a more conservative court, Roe would be immediately overturned, a shift to the right on the Supreme Court will likely lead to affirmation of new, state-level abortion restrictions. For example, rather than overturn Roe, which is backed by additional, subsequent precedent in 1992's Casey and 2016's Hellerstedt, the court might instead find an opportunity to reverse Hellerstedt, as the more recent decision. Such a move might reinvigorate efforts to enact Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, likely forcing abortion providers out of business with burdensome requirements and eliminating much abortion access, especially in already-conservative states.

Either way, if Trump nominates an anti-Roe Supreme Court candidate this year, and the Senate approves them, we can expect many more legal battles on the availability of abortion. "With one SCOTUS appointment and one decision, that could all change, and we could enter a period of abortion-policy activism unlike anything America has seen in decades."

June 28, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now

Rewire.News (Jun. 8, 2018): New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now, by Auditi Guha:

The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), or S 2796, was drafted four years ago and recently passed by the Democratic-majority New York Assembly. The RHA is intended to rectify some of the shortcomings of local abortion law. The bill "repeals criminal abortion statutes, permits abortion after 24 weeks when the pregnant person’s health is at risk or when the fetus is not viable, and expands current law so that nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants can provide abortion services."

The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S 3668), also passed by the Assembly, "would expand contraceptive coverage to include all forms of FDA-approved contraception (including vasectomies), authorize pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, and add coverage for contraceptive education and counseling."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) supported incorporating the RHA’s changes into state law in his budget proposal this year, but it’s been a hard push in a state where Republicans decide what bills get to be voted on. Procedural glitches made the fight tougher this week for both the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act as the senate ground to a halt, the New York Daily News reported.

Senate Democrats last week again tried to bring both the RHA and the CCCA to the floor for a vote, but Republican leadership ended the session without action.

“Both these bills are supported by the governor and have passed the Assembly," Sen. Krueger said in a statement. "The Senate Republicans should stop using procedural maneuvers to block these bills which would ensure that individuals would have control of their own reproductive health decisions.”

The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Robin Chappelle Golston, told Rewire.News: “Obviously legislation as simple as making access to contraception widely available was too much for the majority of the Senate...And I think the best answer for that is that people need to go out and vote this fall.”

June 14, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Contraception, Culture, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis

The New York Times Magazine (April 11, 2018): Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis, by Linda Villarosa:

Villarosa of The New York Times Magazine profiles several black mothers and their pregnancy, child birth, and health care stories while exploring the extraordinarily wide disparity in care that black women receive compared to white women.

The U.S. is one of only 12 countries whose maternal mortality rates have actually increased in recent years and now has a mortality rate worse than 25 years ago. Maternal mortality refers to "the death of a woman related to pregnancy or childbirth up to a year after the end of pregnancy." Women of color are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as white women.

Moms are not the only ones facing the consequences of underdeveloped care. 

Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel.

In the past, many explanations for the disparity turned to poverty, assuming that it was poor and uneducated black women and their babies that suffered the most. But the crisis does not consider class lines, it turns out. "In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education."

In 2014, Monica Simpson--the executive director of SisterSong, an organization dedicated to reproductive justice for women of color, and a member of advocacy group Black Mamas Matter Alliance-- testified before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. She called on the United States to “eliminate racial disparities in the field of sexual and reproductive health and standardize the data-collection system on maternal and infant deaths in all states to effectively identify and address the causes of disparities in maternal- and infant-mortality rates.” That the United States has not done so is a violation of the international human rights treaty, she says.  

This is important for many reasons, one of which is the dramatic effect that society and systemic racism have on a pregnant person's "toxic physiological stress levels." This stress increases the chances for hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and other dangerous pregnancy complications, and it is exacerbated by the pervasive, systemic racial bias embedded in the United States' health care system. Racial bias, discrimination, and the toll it takes on women of color throughout their lives and pregnancy contributes to increased maternal complications across all class and education levels. 

Even when controlling for income and education, African-American women had the highest allostatic load scores — an algorithmic measurement of stress-associated body chemicals and their cumulative effect on the body’s systems — higher than white women and black men. ...Though it seemed radical 25 years ago, few in the field now dispute that the black-white disparity in the deaths of babies is related not to the genetics of race but to the lived experience of race in this country.

Community care systems that incorporate the medical and personal support of doulas and midwives have proven to increase black women's chances at a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience. 

"One of the most important roles that doulas play is as an advocate in the medical system for their clients." A doula may sometimes be the only person consistently present with the mom-to-be during her birth experience, too. One study of 2,400 women found that "more than a quarter of black women meet their birth attendants for the first time during childbirth, compared with 18 percent of white women." 

Doulas “are a critical piece of the puzzle in the crisis of premature birth, infant and maternal mortality in black women.”

Rachel Zaslow, a midwife and doula in Charlottesville, Virginia established Sisters Keeper--a collective of 45 black and Latina doulas in Charlottesville. They offer free birthing services to women of color.

'The doula model is very similar to the community health worker model that’s being used a lot, and successfully, throughout the global South,' Zaslow says. 'For me, when it comes to maternal health, the answer is almost always some form of community health worker.' Since 2015, the Sisters Keeper doulas have attended about 300 births — with no maternal deaths and only one infant death among them.

An analysis of a similar program in New York City showed that, over a five-year period, moms receiving the support of the doula program experience half as many preterm and low-weight babies compared to other community  members.

April 19, 2018 in Culture, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Race & Reproduction, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies

ProPublica (Feb. 22, 2018): A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies, by Nina Martin:

The results of a five-year study, conducted by researchers in both the U.S. and Canada, on the effects of midwifery on maternal and infant health are in. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE; it analyzes hundreds of laws throughout the United States that dictate what a midwife can and cannot do when it comes to prenatal care and the birthing process. 

'We have been able to establish that midwifery care is strongly associated with lower interventions, cost-effectiveness and improved outcomes,' said lead researcher Saraswathi Vedam, an associate professor of midwifery who heads the Birth Place Lab at the University of British Columbia.

The midwife model emphasizes community-based maternal and infant care along with avoiding any unnecessary, and potentially dangerous, interventions. Midwives have long been widely embraced in Europe as a positive component of maternal care. In the U.S., though, midwives often represent a "culture war that encompasses gender, race, class, economic competition, professional and personal autonomy, risk versus safety, and philosophical differences." 

The title "midwife" can have multiple meanings, ranging from "certified nurse-midwives," to "direct-entry midwives," to "lay midwives." Depending on the title and the state in which the midwife works, the midwife will have a different level of training and may or may not be licensed or regulated by the state. 

This new study indicates, though, that midwives may be part of the answer to the U.S.'s problematic infant and maternal mortality rates. Severe maternal complications have sharply risen over the past 20 years, and maternal care is seriously sparse in certain areas of the country. "Nearly half of U.S. counties don't have a single practicing obstetrician-gynecologist." 

While midwife regulations vary widely among states, the study shows that states that have more fully integrated midwifery systems within their health care have significantly better outcomes for mothers and babies. States with restrictive midwife regulations--like Alabama, Ohio, and Mississippi--regularly score much lower on tests of maternal and neonatal well-being.

Alabama, which has the worst infant mortality rate in the country, has long had strict midwife regulations, "reflecting attitudes that wiped out the state's once-rich tradition of black birth attendants." Alabama lawmakers, though, recently passed a bill legalizing certified professional midwives, taking one small step toward the process of greater midwife integration, and, hopefully, improved maternal and infant health care across racial and economic lines. 

Access to midwifery is often split among racial lines, as many of the states with the worst outcomes (and higher levels of opposition to midwives), including Alabama, have large black populations. The study suggests a correlation between improved access to midwifery and reduced racial disparities in the maternal health care field.

Jennie Joseph, a British-trained midwife who runs the Florida birthing center and nonprofit Commonsense Childbirth affirms this:

“It’s a model that somewhat mitigates the impact of any systemic racial bias. You listen. You’re compassionate. There’s such a depth of racism that’s intermingled with [medical] systems. If you’re practicing in [the midwifery] model you’re mitigating this without even realizing it.”

The study, though, does not conclude that better midwife access will directly lead to better outcomes or vice versa. It acknowledges that many other factors also affect maternal and infant health among states, including access to preventative care, insurance, and rates of chronic disease.

Nonetheless, maternal health advocates have long recognized the benefits of midwifery and this is not the only study to highlight the positive effects of supporting midwives. A 2014 study found that integrating midwives into health care could prevent more than 80 percent of maternal and infant fatalities worldwide, in both low and high-resource communities. Even in the U.S., organizations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have begun embracing nurse-midwives despite lingering skepticism by many. 

February 27, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Planned Parenthood Will Launch 10 New Video Chat Abortion Locations in 2018

Cosmopolitan (Feb. 6, 2018): Planned Parenthood Will Launch 10 New Video Chat Abortion Locations in 2018, by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy: 

A safe, early-pregnancy abortion option has been making waves across the United States since Planned Parenthood began its telemedicine abortion pilot program in Iowa in 2008. 

Telemedicine abortions enable those seeking a pregnancy termination to meet with a nurse in a local clinic where both patient and nurse loop in an abortion-providing doctor via video chat. The doctor consults with the patient to determine that they are a good candidate for early pregnancy termination and then authorizes the nurse to dispense two small pills to the patient. The patient takes the first pill in the office in the presence of the nurse and doctor and then later takes the second pill at home. The pregnancy is terminated within a day or two. 

These medications have become known at "the abortion pill" and include both mifepristone and misoprostol, which work together first to block the hormones a woman's body needs to sustain a pregnancy and then to empty her uterus. The FDA-approved abortion pills are for ending pregnancies less than 10 weeks along. A study of Planned Parenthood's telemedicine pilot program found that access to telemedicine abortions decreased second-trimester abortions throughout the state. Second-term abortions require surgical procedures and can carry increased risks.

Although abortion is legal in all 50 states, many states have tightened their restrictions on abortion access, making it very difficult for a person facing an unwanted pregnancy to safely terminate it. Restrictions such as mandatory waiting periods and insurance limitations are compounded in states with very few clinics that can perform abortions. In fact, about 90% of counties in the U.S. do not have an abortion provider. 

Telemedicine allows a patient to meet with an abortion provider even if she doesn’t live near one. Instead of driving long distances, women can go to a closer clinic or Planned Parenthood and video-chat a live, somewhere-in-state abortion provider who prescribes and (virtually, via on-site clinic staff) hands over the meds. “There is no increased risk of complications with a telemedicine visit,” says Daniel Grossman, MD, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. He led a groundbreaking study published last fall that found telemedicine abortions are just as safe as those in which a woman swallows mifepristone in the same room as a physician.

While mifepristone has so far demonstrated a highly-safe success rate (its rates of complications are fewer than most common pain relievers), it cannot be obtained over-the-counter; instead a clinic, hospital, or doctor's office must dispense it.

Some states will allow a pregnant person to video chat with a doctor from her home and then receive both pills in the mail. Since 2008, though, 19 states have challenged the expansion of telemedicine abortions by passing laws that specifically require mifepristone to be dispensed "in the physical presence of the prescribing clinician."

Planned Parenthood continues to expand its telemedicine program despite the challenges. It has now established 24 telemedicine locations in the nation and plans to add at least 10 additional locations--some in new states--throughout this year. 

To find out if telemedicine abortion is available in your area, call the national Planned Parenthood hotline at 800-230-PLAN.

February 13, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Media, Medical News, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

For Nonbinary Parents, Giving Birth Can Be Especially Fraught

Rewire (Jan. 25, 2018): For Nonbinary Parents, Giving Birth Can Be Especially Fraught, by S.E. Smith

Pregnancy and childbirth are vulnerable times in any parent's life. Add to that the highly gendered-status of both pregnancy and birth, and trans and non-binary parents are finding it difficult to locate an inclusive community with educated medical staff as they, too, enter childrearing chapters.

With the trans community, conversations about birth and parenting are few and far between and often fraught with discomfort. Now, though, more parents-to-be identify as trans men or somewhere else on the non-binary spectrum of gender identity. And the medical community has not yet caught up. "And, as in any area of reproductive health-care services, this isn’t simply a matter of gender: Race, class, and geography can play a huge role in whether non-binary people are able to access inclusive, affirming birth care."

Gender-affirming care--including asking for a patient's pronouns with their name, using gender-affirming language, and regularly seeking consent before performing examinations, particularly those that require a medical professional to touch the patient's genitalia--is important.  When it is absent, patients report both physical and psychological trauma.

Many in the trans and non-binary communities are increasingly seeking home births with gender-affirming midwives in order to create the most comfortable environments for themselves. Midwifery can be prohibitively expensive though, and insurance rarely covers it. So for others, a hospital may be the safest or the only choice. Advocates say that hospitals and birth collectives would do well to invest in specialized training for medical providers "to ensure that everyone at a facility is trans-competent, or working on getting there."

This issue is likely to amplify in coming years with a more visible nonbinary community, as well as a more active movement to reframe the way we look at pregnancy and birthing. Trans people—binary and otherwise—are some of the biggest stakeholders in the conversation, and they’re contributing with inclusive birthing classes and provider training in addition to working as care providers themselves.

The trans and non-binary communities call on leaders within the medical community to initiate changes from the inside, including re-training initiatives and reframing core educational documents for inclusivity. 

February 7, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Medical News, Men and Reproduction, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 23, 2017

New bill would protect employees from discrimination regarding reproductive health choices

New York Daily News (Oct. 16, 2107): Councilman to introduce bill to protect employees from discrimination when it comes to reproductive health, by Jillian Jorgensen:

New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams plans to introduce a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination based on reproductive decisions in the wake of Trump's recent health care initiatives. 

This proposal follows the "Boss Bill," currently before the state legislature, which aims to guarantee women access to medical procedures and medicine such as fertility treatments, contraceptives, and abortion.

The bill is co-sponsored by several women council members, including the chair of the Committee on Women's Issues, Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) and co-chair of the Women's Caucus Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).

The bill would modify the city’s Human Rights Law to protect against employment discrimination based on “sexual and reproductive health decisions.”

That would include fertility treatments, family planning services and counseling, birth control drugs and supplies, emergency contraception, sterilization, pregnancy tests, abortions and HIV testing and counseling.

 

October 23, 2017 in Abortion, Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Contraception is Lifesaving but Often Out of Reach

Human Rights Watch (July 10, 2017): Contraception is Lifesaving but Often Out of Reach, by Nisha Varia

This week, the Family Planning Summit met in London. The goal of this annual meeting is to bring governments, donors, and civil society together to discuss progress and future goals in expanding access to modern contraception for millions of women globally. 

Family planning and effective contraception saves lives. 

Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19 globally and cause 800 women and girls to die each day. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 22,000 women die from abortion-related complications each year.

This year, many lobbied for the Summit to include conversations on the effects of the Trump administration's reimplementation of the "Global Gag Rule." The controversial policy prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S. health funding if they use funds from any source to provide information about abortions, advocate for or provide abortions.

The policy affects $8.8 billion of foreign assistance. The anticipated consequences of the Gag Rule include increases in unplanned pregnancies and dangerous abortions as well as a higher maternal death rate. 

July 13, 2017 in Abortion, Contraception, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

California's maternal mortality rate is a third of the American average. Here's why.

Vox (Jun. 29, 2017): California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth, by Julia Belluz:

At the same time the global maternal death rate fell by nearly 44 percent, between 2000 and 2014, the United States watched its maternal mortality rate skyrocket 27 percent. Maternal mortality refers to "the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she's carrying or within 42 days after birth." Childbirth is more dangerous in the U.S. than any other wealthy nation. The reason? The U.S. does not value its women. 

The United States is in the company of only 12 other countries whose maternal mortality rates have actually increased in recent years, including North Korea and Zimbabwe.

Researchers and health care advocates argue that a high maternal death rate is a reflection of how that culture views its women.

[In the U.S.,] policies and funding dollars tend to focus on babies, not the women who bring them into the world. For example, Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income Americans, will only cover women during and shortly after pregnancy.

Texas, having rejected Medicaid expansion and closed the majority of its Planned Parenthood clinics, has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. California, however, has proven to be an exception within the nation. The California maternal mortality rate has steadily decreased over the same time that the rest of the nation's has risen, thanks in large part to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC). 

60% of maternal deaths are preventable and the complications that cause them should be anticipated. The CMQCC finds that even within an imperfect health care system, death from childbirth need not be an inevitability. Maternal deaths in the U.S. often result from common complications like hemorrhaging and preeclampsia. The CMQCC has enacted simple, lifesaving procedures over the last decade to reduce the number of unnecessary maternal deaths. And, they're working.

First, they aimed to lower the number of unnecessary C-sections performed. Cesarian sections are often prematurely offered by obstetricians who are short on time. The procedure can leave mothers with internal scar tissue that ultimately makes future pregnancies more dangerous by increasing the mother's risk of hemorrhaging. 

As many maternal deaths are a result of hemorrhaging--a mother can bleed to death within five minutes--doctors set out to prepare every delivery room in hospitals participating in their program with a "hemorrhage cart," equipped with everything necessary to handle a bleeding problem the moment it begins. 

In a recent study, researchers found a 21 percent reduction in severe complications related to hemorrhages in the hospitals participating in CMQCC's program. Hospitals not participating in the program saw only a one percent reduction. 

California has demonstrated that even in our messy and imperfect health care system, progress is possible. They’ve shown the rest of the country what happens when people care about and organize around women’s health. Policymakers owe it to the 4 million babies born in the US each year, and their mothers, to figure out how to bring that success to families across the country. 

How the current health care debate and the resulting volatility of the insurance market will affect the United States' maternal mortality rate going forward remains to be seen.

July 13, 2017 in Medical News, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Free Birth Control in Philippines Ignites Religious Skirmish

New York Times (Jan. 27, 2017): Duterte’s Free Birth-Control Order Is Latest Skirmish With Catholic Church, by Aurora Almendral:

The Philippines, where six million women have no access to contraceptives, delivers free birth control to indigent women through a program that also offers prenatal care and mandates that sex education be taught in schools and that companies provide reproductive health services to their employees.  The program has been billed as "pro-life, pro-women, pro-children and pro-economic development." 

But the Catholic Church has long fought the implementation of the program, going so far as to block key components of it via petitions filed in the Supreme Court.  Unable to implement the program, the Health Department's budget has been slashed.  Sex education in schools remains substandard, based in abstinence-only rhetoric.  The Philippines is the only country in Asia where rates of pregnancy among teenagers increased. 

President Duterte's administration is coming back strong against the court's decisions, vowing to uphold the law and eliminating some of the decisions' ambiguous wording.  Two archbishops have acknowledged defeat.      

One commentator, contrasting Duterte's clash with the church with President Donald Trump's reinstatement of the Reagan-era global "gag rule" forbidding foreign NGOs from receiving U.S. family planning funds if they perform, counsel or refer women for abortion services or advocate for the liberalization of abortion laws where they work, sees the policy of the United States, not the Philippines, as the real threat to women's health.

February 9, 2017 in Abortion, Contraception, International, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Likely Houston Zika Outbreak Complicated by Texas's Conservative Position on Reproductive Rights

HoustonPress (Sept. 19, 2016): Texas's Conservatism on Reproductive Rights May Make Fighting Zika Harder, by Carter Sherman:

As Houston braces for an outbreak of Zika (the city's mosquito season will extend well into October), activists are taking note of the likelihood that Texas's ultra-conservative stance on reproductive rights will make it harder for the state to fight the virus.  The Population Institute, an international non-profit that aims to expand access to family planning resources, has reported that "Texas's especially dire track record on the issue makes the state 'particularly vulnerable."  The state received an F-, the lowest possible grade, in the Institute's 2015 Report on Reproductive Health and Rights. 

Despite the recent victory in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the fact that many abortion clinics in Texas remain closed means that "some women who contract Zika may have no choice but to carry a pregnancy to term."  And with the number of people traveling to Texas from other regions of the world, Zika will remain a year-round concern. 

Genevieve Cato of the Lilith Fund expressed her consternation: “I personally have found it almost maddening that we are seeing this potentially devastating possibility of a Zika outbreak at the same time that the state is doubling down on its willful inaction on expanding access to reproductive healthcare.”     

September 30, 2016 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New York Struggles to Remain in Vanguard of Reproductive Rights

City Limits (Sept. 13, 2016): Reproductive Rights and Today's Primary Ballot, by Joan Malin:

Malin writes, "New York is a place where everyone is welcome and where we believe that everyone deserves access to the resources to achieve their dreams."  In the area of abortion liberty, New York has been in the vanguard.  Abortion was legal here before Roe v. Wade, the state provides Medicaid coverage for abortion services and requires health insurance coverage for birth control.  But the current Senate majority is hostile to reproductive rights and has stymied forward progress.  It has blocked the Women's Equality Act for three years in a row and has not been a friend to measures that would have eliminated barriers to birth control and would have barred employment discrimination on the basis of an employee's reproductive health decisions.  

The good news is that Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Gustavo Rivera have won in their primary contests against challengers who vowed to roll back reproductive rights in New York State.  Businessman S.J. Jung does not support a woman's right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.  Fernando Cabrera champions "anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers that mislead women about their reproductive health care options."  Both Jung and Cabrera have gone out of their way to express their disapproval of equal rights for same-sex couples and gay individuals.   

New York has a rich history of championing reproductive rights, even if no progress has been made in recent years.  With Democratic candidates for Senate like Stavisky and Rivera, come November voters will have a golden opportunity to show their support for reproductive liberty.     

 

September 20, 2016 in Reproductive Health & Safety, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Prominent Trans Lawyer Picked To Run National Trans Rights Legal Group

Buzzfeed (July 12, 2016): Prominent Trans Lawyer Picked To Run National Trans Rights Legal Group, by Meredith Talusan: 

Jillian Weiss was just named the new executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. With a background in employment law and teaching (as a professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey), Weiss is most noted for her successful suit against Saks & Co., where she represented a trans woman who was discriminated against by the company. While Weiss acknowledges the importance and significance of her identity and the position she has been appointed to, she is more focused on the intersectional work that is needed to move forward. “It’s really the system that is set up to discriminate and to be prejudiced against trans people, particularly people of color, and other people caught at the intersection of different kinds of prejudice, like race and class and gender,” she concluded. “It’s very important that we focus on that intersection and understand that it’s a much larger picture out there.”

July 25, 2016 in Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Doctors urged to advise patients about risks of abstinence-centric sex education

The Guardian (July 18, 2016): Doctors urged to advise patients about risks of abstinence-centric sex education, by Molly Redden: 

In a recently released report, The American Academy of Pediatrics denounced abstinence only education programs, stressing the importance of educating young people about comprehensive approaches to things like STIs and contraception. Some interviewed view this as a triumph for doctors in areas where parents may want to mitigate their children gaining access to this kind of information, viewing the report as a scientifically-sound back up against the arguments of abstinence-focused parents. The report stresses the inadequacy of abstinence-only education and highlights conversations about consent and gender identity as a few of the topics pediatricians should feel encouraged to speak with patients about. 

Abstinence-only groups have already taken issue with the report, but many are heralding this as an important step in the right direction for doctors and patients alike:

 “This is the mothership telling pediatricians that talking about sex is part of your charge to keep     children and adolescents safe,” said Dr Cora Breuner, a professor and pediatrician at Seattle     Children’s research hospital and the report’s lead author.

July 21, 2016 in Contraception, Medical News, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Do We Treat Sexually Abusive Doctors Differently Than Other Predators?

New York Magazine (July 7, 2016): Why Do We Treat Sexually Abusive Doctors Differently Than Other Predators?, by Susan Rinkunas

Linking to a study done by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, this article and the study explores the safe space that doctors create with patients, and the physicians that violate that safe space with unwarranted sexual harassment or assault. For many women seeking reproductive - or other types of - healthcare, it is more confusing when doctors cross a line because of the power they hold, the space they share with patients, and the inherent vulnerability of being in an exam room with someone who has vowed to "do no harm." The medical profession also seems to look the other way when when people are courageous enough to step forward and report these offenders: 

Medical boards do publicly reprimand doctors, with sanctions including treatment programs, required chaperones when seeing female patients, and monitoring of their practice. Still, the reporters  found that, of 2,400 doctors publicly disciplined for sexual misconduct nationwide since 1999, half  still had active medical licenses. Some doctors who lost their licenses simply applied for one in another state.

    The report raises the question: Why are some doctors seemingly given a pass while abusive coaches,     teachers, and, more recently, priests get registered as sex offenders?

July 15, 2016 in Bioethics, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Eight states now striving to repeal abortion restrictions

The Guardian (June 30, 2016): Planned Parenthood: eight states now striving to repeal abortion restrictions, by Molly Redden

The victory of the recent SCOTUS decision that slammed down Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP Laws) is already resonating within the reproductive rights community. Planned Parenthood made a statement about the next steps that their legal department plans to take now that the ruling has been handed down by the nation's highest court. In an effort to rally voters for the upcoming November election - both for the Presidency as well as more locally - Planned Parenthood, along with the Center for Reproductive Rights, has its eyes on states beyond Texas: 

Lawmakers are formulating specific plans to target similar abortion restrictions in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and  they are broadly prepared to repeal laws in Florida, Michigan and Texas. In Tennessee, Planned Parenthood is looking to  support litigation by the Center for Reproductive Rights against that state’s building requirement law. They will also target Missouri’s admitting privileges law. Earlier this week, officials with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and mid-Missouri signaled that they were prepared, if necessary, to mount a legal challenge.

While some state laws restricting abortion have already fallen in light of the Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood and The Center for Reproductive Rights intend to move forward against more challenging laws in the above mentioned states, as well as others, in order to protect reproductive rights nationwide. 

July 3, 2016 in Abortion, In the Courts, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Can the U.S. End Teen Pregnancy?

Screen shot 2016-06-20 at 8.46.44 PMThe Atlantic, June 14, 2016 Can the U.S. End Teen Pregnancy?, by Caitlin Cadieux, Olga Khazan, Nicolas Pollock:

An animated video by the Atlantic discusses teen pregnancy in the U.S.:

Teen birth rates in the U.S. are down 9 percent from 2013, and they are the lowest they’ve been since 1940. However, America still has the highest teen pregnancy rate among 21 similar countries. Why is this? In this video, staff writer Olga Khazan explores how poverty, culture, and religion can all    play a role.

June 22, 2016 in Contraception, Reproductive Health & Safety, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

C.D.C. Reports 234 Pregnant Women in U.S. With Zika

New York Times (June 16, 2016): C.D.C. Reports 234 Pregnant Women in U.S. With Zika, by Sabrina Tavernise:

The number of pregnant women infected with the Zika virus in the U.S. has risen to 234.  The CDC reported 6 cases of abnormalities: three deaths before birth and three babies born with birth defects. However, the CDC did not disclose how many of the infected women gave birth, making it difficult to determine how great a risk Zika poses as a cause of birth defects.  The CDC also reported that 189 pregnant women were infected with Zika in U.S. territories including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands but did not provide any birth outcomes for the group.

Dr. Denise Jamison, a leader of the CDC's pregnancy and birth defects team, stated that the CDC hopes to provide more information on birth outcomes in Zika pregnancies as the number of births rise.

“We’re sort of in a hard place,” Dr. Jamieson said. “We can’t provide a lot of information about where these women are in their pregnancy. We don’t want to inadvertently disclose information about difficult decisions these women are making about their pregnancies.

She said the numbers included the nine pregnant women the C.D.C. had reported on in February. Of the babies in those cases, at least one was born with microcephaly.

Dr. Jamieson stated that the estimated risk of birth defects based on available data is between 1 and 15%.

 

 

 

June 22, 2016 in Abortion, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)