Friday, April 30, 2010

The Rise of the Abortion Doula

Slate Magazine: What's an Abortion Doula?, by Marisa Meltzer:

They're strangers who will hold your hand while you go under the knife.

A recent Bust magazine article on the pregnancy assistants known as doulas contained this description of their duties: "Sometimes the doula will hold a woman's hand or rub her scalp to calm her; other times, she may crack corny jokes or trade dating stories." Except the article wasn't about a doula entertaining a woman in labor—it was about a doula helping a woman during her abortion.

Assisting a woman during her vacuum aspiration was not always part of a doula's job description. Most doulas serve pregnant women in the last few months before and during her delivery. (Doula comes from a Greek term meaning "woman of service" or "caregiver." Some translations say it comes from "female slave.") They've become more popular in the United States over the last few decades as interest in individualized birth plans has increased. They're not the same as midwives, who have medical training, or social workers, who have advanced degrees. Doulas are meant to be a reassuring presence during labor—an ally whose sole interest is in the happiness of the mom-to-be. They have evolved as jack-of-all trades, on call for hand-holding, massage, acupressure, breathing techniques, or pain management. Some postpartum doulas will even do housework and run errands. They can cost anywhere from $300 to a few thousand dollars. . . .

April 30, 2010 in Abortion, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Public Wants Supreme Court Nominee to Have Judicial Experience

Wash. Post: Poll affirms a vote for judicial know-how, by Robert Barnes & Jennifer Agiesta:

Survey Some Senate Democrats and legal activists are advising President Obama to look beyond the "judicial monastery" to find a replacement for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, but the public does not seem to share that view.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that judicial experience is the most valued quality among a list of professional and personal characteristics. Seven in 10 say service as a judge is a positive quality for a Supreme Court nominee, while only 5 percent see it as a negative. In contrast, 35 percent view experience outside the legal world as a positive.

Overall, two-thirds of Americans say they are comfortable with Obama selecting the nation's next justice, including nearly a third of Republicans. That is comparable with a Fox News poll conducted last May before the president chose Sonia Sotomayor to be his first nominee to the court. . . . .

April 30, 2010 in President/Executive Branch, Public Opinion, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Canada's Supposed Abortion War

National Post: Chris Selley: A contrived little abortion war:

Canada Flag I’m intrigued by the idea, as championed by Stephen Harper this week, that abortion “divides” Canadians. It does, certainly, on an emotional level. But considering how vicious and clamorous the pro-life vs. pro-choice battle is, there’s actually a remarkable consensus among Canadians that abortion should not be illegal. The last major poll I’m aware of, conducted by Angus Reid in June 2008, found that just 4% of us felt abortion should be outlawed in all circumstances.

There are divisions within the other 96%, of course. Angus Reid found 48% of Canadians felt abortion should always be legal. But nearly as many, 43%, felt there should be some restrictions. And when that 43% was presented with an array of possibilities, such as a cutoff date in a woman’s pregnancy or defunding the procedure under certain circumstances, they couldn’t agree on anything. . . .

April 30, 2010 in Abortion, International, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Oklahoma Pre-Abortion Ultrasound Law Alarmingly Invasive

Alternet: New Oklahoma Law: Women Seeking Abortions Must Have Ultrasounds Against Their Will, by Dana Stone:

The Oklahoma State Legislature is playing doctor again. Last year they dictated how specialists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center may care for pregnant women who have medical complications. This week, despite intense lobbying efforts and the Governor’s veto, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1878, which mandates invasive and unnecessary medical testing for women.

Under the guise of obtaining informed patient consent, this new law requires doctors to withhold pregnancy termination until an ultrasound is performed. The law states that either an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound, whichever gives the best image of the fetus, must be done. Neither the patient nor the doctor can decide which type of ultrasound to use, and the patient cannot opt out of the ultrasound and still have the procedure. In effect, then, the legislature has mandated that a woman have an instrument placed in her vagina for no medical benefit. The law makes no exception for victims of rape and incest. . . .

April 30, 2010 in Abortion, Sexual Assault, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Men Convicted of Blocking Access to NYC Abortion Clinic

NY Times: Two Convicted of Denying Access to Abortion Clinic, by Colin Moynihan:

For the first time in New York City, federal prosecutors have used the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act to secure a conviction in a case where access was blocked to a clinic that provides abortions.

The prosecutors used the statute, signed into law in 1994, to charge two men who stood in front of an entrance at the Margaret Sanger Center, a clinic operated by Planned Parenthood at the corner of Bleecker and Mott Streets. . . .

April 29, 2010 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma One of Most Restrictive States on Abortion Oklahoma, where women's rights are swept away, by Tracy Clark-Flory:

Two new antiabortion bills are enacted, and more are on the way

On Tuesday, Oklahoma's Legislature passed two abortion laws previously vetoed by the governor for being unconstitutional. The Republican majorities in both houses are not letting that inconvenient Constitution get in the way of the crusade against reproductive choice, though. One of the bills requires that before having an abortion, a woman must view an ultrasound as the doctor points out the various parts of the fetus. Even incest and rape victims are barred from opting out. The other law bars women from suing doctors for concealing information about a fetus's birth defects during pregnancy. In other words: Doctors are totally free to pretend the fetus is perfectly healthy in order to prevent a woman from aborting. For serious. There are people in this world who think that is ethical, defensible behavior.

But wait, there's more. The Legislature is considering two other antiabortion bills. One limits insurance coverage for abortions; the other requires women to fill out an extensive questionnaire about her reasons for having an abortion, and the results are then published online for all the world to see. They are both expected to pass. As the New York Times reports, "the various pieces of legislation would make Oklahoma one of the most prohibitive environments in the United States for women seeking to end a pregnancy, advocates for women and family planning said." Wonder if they'll put that fun factoid in state tourism ads. . .  .

April 29, 2010 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oklahoma Pre-Abortion Ultrasound Requirement Challenged

Center for Reproductive Rights press release: Center for Reproductive Rights Files Lawsuit against Oklahoma’s Ultrasound Requirement:

Oklahoma flag New York—Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge against Oklahoma legislation which prohibits a woman from getting an abortion unless she first has an ultrasound, is shown the ultrasound image and listens to her doctor describe the image in detail. The lawsuit follows the Oklahoma Senate voting to override Governor Brad Henry’s veto of the legislation this afternoon.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Oklahoma legislature insists on passing a law that is so clearly unconstitutional and so detrimental to women in the state,” said Stephanie Toti, staff attorney in the U.S. Legal Program of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The state has already spent the last two years defending this abortion restriction and several others—without success. Another round in the courts won’t change our strong constitutional claims against the law, it will only waste more of Oklahoma taxpayers’ time and money.”

The Center argues that the ultrasound requirement profoundly intrudes upon a patient’s privacy and is the most extreme ultrasound law in the country. The law forces a woman to hear information that she may not want to hear and that may not be relevant to her medical care. It also dangerously discounts her abilities to make healthy decisions about her own life by forcing her to hear information when she's objected. In addition, the statute interferes with the doctor-patient relationship—potentially damaging it—by compelling doctors to deliver unwanted speech.   

“Politicians have no business making medical decisions,” said Toti. “When they do, it seriously undermines doctors’ ability to give patients the best medical care and does absolutely nothing to improve the health of patients.”

Last year, an Oklahoma state court struck down the ultrasound provision, among other abortion restrictions, as part of an omnibus bill in a single-subject challenge.

April 27, 2010 in Abortion, In the Courts, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

An Interview with Child Health Director, Dr. Alan Guttmacher

NY Times: Child Health Director Has Background in Genetics, by Claudia Dreifus:

Dr. Alan Guttmacher, a Harvard-trained geneticist and pediatrician, is the new acting director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the federal agency that finances research into child and maternal health. Dr. Guttmacher, 60, previously worked with Francis Collins on the Human Genome Project and then as the deputy director of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health. We spoke for three hours in his Bethesda, Md., offices and then later by telephone. An edited version of the conversations follows.


A. I have not been aware of any. The name does stand for something. Planned Parenthood was more of a social movement until my uncle said, “If we’re making all these decisions, we need to make sure that it is backed up by good scientific information.” So he started the think tank that became known as the Guttmacher Institute. One finds that people know the name primarily because of that. But people on both sides of the abortion debate tend to use their data as the reliable data. So, to some degree, my appointment has been less controversial than some might think. . . .

April 27, 2010 in Abortion, Contraception, President/Executive Branch, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Call for A "Mom" on the Supreme Court The absurd call for a "mom on the Supreme Court", by Kate Harding:

Appointing another mother to the Supreme Court won't change the fact that "having it all" is hard as hell

Just the title and teaser for Peter Beinart's recent piece about the importance of female role models (and why Obama should pick Diane Wood over Elena Kagan as his next Supreme Court nominee) in The Daily Beast had me WTF-ing something fierce. (To be fair, it's entirely possible that both of those were written by an editor, but since they set the tone for Beinart's argument, let's start there anyway.) Title: "Put a Mom on the Supreme Court." OK, you mean besides Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose name somehow never comes up here? Or, if we include past justices, Sandra Day O'Connor? Beinart's concerned that women with children are "underrepresented in high office," and sees the decision between Kagan and Wood as an opportunity to redress that, but by my count, there's been exactly one woman without children on the Supreme Court in all of American history, and she's been there for about five minutes, so I fail to see a worrying trend here. . . .

April 27, 2010 in Parenthood, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Young Reproductive Justice Activists Respond to Accusations of Complacency

Newsweek: Remember Roe? Young Activists Say They Never Forgot!, by Kate Dailey:
Sarah Kliff's article describing the graying of the abortion-rights movement has started a really smart, useful online discussion about the status of that movement. The piece, which published exclusive NARAL data about the opinions of young Americans regarding abortion, decried what NARAL leaders saw as both a decline in pro-abortion-rights sentiment and an absence of leadership among younger women. . . .

. . . NOW’s Erin Matson, who started an online petition to demand that NEWSWEEK interview younger pro-choice leaders, wrote that she  "shaking with anger." For while NARAL and other more established pro-choice groups may be headed by the so-called menopausal militia, there are still plenty of younger women involved with the cause. And to them, the oft-repeated meme that the movement lives and dies with boomers has them speaking out, once more, imploring to be heard and demanding to be counted. . . . The Pro-Choice Movement would fail without young women, by Jessica Valenti:

It would be bad enough if this sentiment was only repeated by the media - but it's one we've heard again and again from pro-choice leadership as well. That young women are apathetic, we take our rights "for granted," that we don't know how good we've got it. Well I'm sorry - but who do you think has been making your photocopies and volunteering and organizing for these big organizations all of these years?

The work of the mainstream pro-choice movement is built on younger women's labor - unpaid and underpaid - who do the majority of the grunt work but who are rarely recognized. And I don't know about you - but I'm sick of working so hard on behalf of a movement that continues to insist that we don't exist. . . .

Fair and Feminist: Dear Newsweek: Please interview some YOUNG FEMINISTS for your story about US!:

Newsweek published a story by Sarah Kliff about how young women and young feminists don’t care about reproductive rights. They interviewed  several young feminist activists NARAL president Nancy Keenan and offered a summary judgment that young women and young feminists aren’t interested in protecting reproductive rights.

Some awesome excerpts:

“Keenan considers herself part of the “postmenopausal militia,” a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.”

First of all, this is a huge problem right there–that young feminists are kept out of leadership in large organizations, and then are criticized for lack of involvement. Hmmm. . . .

Click here for the original Newsweek story.

April 26, 2010 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A Closer Look at the Ninth Circuit and its "Liberal" Reputation

NY Times: ‘Liberal’ Reputation Precedes Ninth Circuit Court, by John Schwartz:

Courtroom When President Obama earlier this year nominated Goodwin Liu, a liberal Berkeley law professor, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, conservatives did not just criticize Mr. Liu — they also attacked the circuit court he hopes to join.

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, called the circuit “an activist court that has handed down decisions striking ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance and finding Megan’s Law to be unconstitutional.”

It is a familiar refrain. Those cases and others have been part of a longstanding argument that the court is out of touch with the nation’s political and judicial mainstream. It has long been a favorite target of ridicule among Republicans: Rush Limbaugh refers to the court, headquartered in San Francisco, as the “Ninth Circus,” and many bloggers call it the “nutty Ninth.”

Yet others say that the liberal label, if it ever was accurate, is out of date. . . .

April 26, 2010 in In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Early Marriage and Childbirth in India

Amanpour (CNN): India: The Pressure to Have Children, by Sara Sidner:

India_flag Nineteen-year-old Kalawati Kumari stares at her 11-month-old baby boy filled with both love and regret.

She wishes her life could be different.

“I did not want to have children now. I want to study.”

Kumari didn’t want to get married either. But when she was 11, her parents arranged her marriage. In keeping with family tradition, she stayed at home until she reached puberty and then had to move in with the family of the village boy she was promised to.

Click here to view the video.

April 25, 2010 in International, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Two Op-Eds on Nebraska's New Abortion Laws

LA Times (op-ed): Nebraska legislation aimed at undoing Roe vs. Wade, by Caitlin Borgmann:

Nebraska's Abortion Pain Prevention Act, signed into law last week, appears to have a quite reasonable aim: to prevent fetuses from feeling pain during abortions. In fact, the law, which bans abortions for women more than 20 weeks pregnant, is yet another attempt to undo Roe vs. Wade and abolish a woman's constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion. To do this, the law takes a disingenuous path, one well trodden by antiabortion legislation passed in the decades since Roe. . . .

Omaha World-Herald: New Nebraska abortion laws defy Constitution, by Caitlin Borgmann:

Nebraska’s new abortion laws the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and a law requiring pre-abortion screening are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Indeed, it seems quite clear that the first law is intended to persuade Justice Anthony Kennedy, the U.S. Supreme Court’s swing vote on abortion, to jettison those decisions’ most fundamental premises. So what makes these laws unconstitutional?

April 25, 2010 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Quest for "Female Viagra" Continues The quest for the perfect female orgasm, by Tracy Clark-Flory:

Is a "lady Viagra" on the horizon? And if so, would that be a good thing?

Pills Last week, the media was worked into a breathless frenzy over the potential discovery of a "female Viagra." The results of a new study showed that a prototype drug made by Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, successfully increased blood flow to the genitals -- of female rabbits. That was all it took for news outlets to trumpet the imminent arrival of a sex drug for the ladies.

It was a bit of a déjà vu moment. In the past decade, there have been countless reports that the cure to female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) -- an umbrella term that can sound awfully reminiscent of the hoary concept of female "frigidity" -- was right around the corner. . . .

April 25, 2010 in Culture, Medical News, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nike's Sponsorship of Ben Roethlisberger Sends Bad Message to Women

NY Times (Op-Ed): Nike's Women Problem, by Timothy Egan:

Is there anything creepier than a big, beer-breathed celebrity athlete exposing himself in a night club and hitting on underage girls, all the while protected by an entourage of off-duty cops? Well, yes. It’s the big, corporate sponsor — Nike, in this case — that continues trying to sell product with the creep as their role model.

You have to go a long way to find anything as disgusting as a night on the town with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, as described in a 572-page Georgia police report of a sexual assault accusation against him last month.

After hours of drinking and carousing, the six-foot-five-inch football player followed an intoxicated 20-year-old student into a club’s bathroom and forced her to have sex, the woman told police. When her friend appealed for help, she was ignored by the bodyguards, the report indicated. . . .

April 25, 2010 in Culture, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Reflection on the Pill at 50

Huffington Post: The Pill Turns 50: Taking Stock, by Dr. Christiane Northup: 

Birth Control (3) This year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill, a development that ushered in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and gave women unprecedented freedom to explore their sexuality without having to worry about pregnancy. Because of its convenience, the pill remains the most popular method of birth control in the United States. It also fits well with society's view of the female body as something that requires outside control.

Though there are other reliable methods of contraception, birth control pills have been "pushed" by the medical profession as the optimal method of contraception for the last half century. Other methods, for example diaphragms, condoms and fertility awareness, have been actively downplayed even though, when used properly, they are nearly as effective as the pill. . . .

April 25, 2010 in Contraception, Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Female Condom Empowers Women to Protect Themselves

USA Today (Op-Ed): Female Condom empowers women to save themselves, by Yolanda Young:

In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to a then-novel item: the female condom. At the time, AIDS awareness was growing. NBA star Magic Johnson had announced he was HIV-positive less than two years earlier. But the virus was still greatly feared and misunderstood. Condom use was urged as a matter of dire public health, and so women finally could protect themselves if their partner chose not to.

Yet according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, in 2007 about 11 billion male condoms were circulated worldwide compared with 26 million female ones. Cost used to be an issue, but it is no longer: The $4 female condom has been replaced by the 82-cent one. . . .

April 25, 2010 in Contraception, Race & Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Virginia Legislature Restricts Medicaid Funding for Abortion

Wash. Post: Virginia legislature restricts abortion funding, by Rosalind S. Helderman & Anita Kumar:

VA RICHMOND -- The Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday accepted proposals from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to restrict state funding for abortions, expand spending on economic development and raise fines for speeders, but lawmakers resisted some cuts he had sought for social services.

On a 20 to 19 vote, the Democratic-led Senate agreed to an amendment proposed by McDonnell (R) that would limit state funding for abortions to those performed in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. Nothing in state law previously prohibited Medicaid-funded abortions in instances when the health of the mother was in jeopardy. . . . 

April 25, 2010 in Abortion, Poverty, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reflections on "The Paradox of the Pill," on Its 50th Anniversary

Time Magazine: Love, Sex, Freedom and the Paradox of the Pill, by Nancy Gibbs:

TIME (Pill) There's no such thing as the Car or the Shoe or the Laundry Soap. But everyone knows the Pill, whose FDA approval 50 years ago rearranged the furniture of human relations in ways that we've argued about ever since.

Consider the contradictions: It was the first medicine ever designed to be taken regularly by people who were not sick. Its main inventor was a conservative Catholic who was looking for a treatment for infertility and instead found a guarantee of it. It was blamed for unleashing the sexual revolution among suddenly swinging singles, despite the fact that throughout the 1960s, women usually had to be married to get it. Its supporters hoped it would strengthen marriage by easing the strain of unwanted children; its critics still charge that the Pill gave rise to promiscuity, adultery and the breakdown of the family. In 1999 the Economist named it the most important scientific advance of the 20th century, but Gloria Steinem, one of the era's most influential feminists, calls its impact "overrated." One of the world's largest studies of the Pill — 46,000 women followed for nearly 40 years — was released this March. It found that women who take the Pill are less likely to die prematurely from any cause, including cancer and heart disease, yet many women still question whether the health risks outweigh the benefits. . . . 

April 21, 2010 in Contraception, Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama Says Abortion Rights Important But Disavows Litmus Test for Supreme Court Nominee

Wash. Post: Obama Abortion rights 'very important' but no litmus test for court nominee, by Anne Kornblut, Perry Bacon Jr. & Debbi Wilgoren:

President Obama said Wednesday that he considers it "very important" that women be allowed to make decisions about their bodies but would not impose a "litmus test" on abortion for potential nominees.

Obama met with top Senate Democrats and Republicans to discuss the process of nominating a replacement for retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, who is stepping down this summer.

After the meeting, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said they had discussed "no names." But both said they had held separate, private conversations with the president about specific candidates -- which they declined to describe. . . . 

April 21, 2010 in Abortion, Congress, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)