Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pentagon Extends Paid Maternity Leave

Huffington Post (Jan. 28, 2016): Pentagon to Announce Longer Family Leave for Service Members (AP):

Defense Secretary Ash Carter intends to double the length of fully paid maternity leave for female service members and will also work to boost time off for paternity leave and adoptions, U.S. officials said.

Carter also intends to expand health care coverage to include more benefits for women trying to get pregnant. He also will direct the military services to expand the hours that military child care facilities are open and the number of children that can be accommodated, the officials said.

The proposals are scheduled to be announce Thursday as part of an ongoing effort to modernize and improve its ability to retain and recruit quality forces.   T he changes will increase paid maternity leave from six weeks to twelve weeks.  According to AP, "pregnancy is a key issue for military women, who often have to deploy for months at a time and try to plan childbirth around their more stable duty assignments."


January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planned Parenthood Bridges Gap in Access to Hormone Therapy

Slate (Jan. 29, 2016): Planned Parenthood is Helping Transgender Patients Access Hormone Therapy, by Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart: 

For transgender Americans, finding safe, affordable, and nonjudgmental medical treatment can be a struggle. Hormone therapy, which typically consists of testosterone (for patients seeking to become more masculine) or estrogen plus androgen blockers (for patients seeking a feminizing effect), is among the most commonly used treatments in medical transition. Across much of the country, it can be difficult to find doctors who are willing to prescribe the drugs required for hormone replacement therapy, and medical practitioners who choose not to prescribe hormones to these patients may be ignorant or insensitive to patients who come in to request them.

Planned Parenthood has taken this issue on, currently offering hormone therapy to transgender patients in 26 locations across the country and working to increase that number. 

While all the other local clinics require a letter from the patient’s therapist before they will prescribe HRT, Planned Parenthood operates on an informed consent basis. This means that all patients whose bloodwork indicates they are good candidates for the treatment will be prescribed testosterone or estrogen and androgen blockers, so long as they understand the likely effects and accept the possible side effects that go along with it, after those side effects have been explained to them. This distinction can be crucial to poorer patients, who may struggle to afford the months of therapy that can be required before a letter is forthcoming.


Check out Planned Parenthood's website for further resources.

January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Legislators Propose Anti-Trans Laws

ACLU (Jan. 21, 2016): Legislators Across the Country Set Their Sights on Transgender People, by Chase Strangio:

After last year became the most violent in history toward the transgender community, 2016 is off to an inauspicious start with anti-trans rhetoric heating up in the states. Bills are being introduced in state legislatures, from Washington state to Virginia (and everywhere in-between), aimed at dehumanizing and discriminating against LGBT people. In many, transgender people bear the brunt of the most extreme proposals.

The radical bills include:

  • 9 anti-LGBT proposals in Virginia, including a $50 civil penalty for those using the "wrong" bathroom. 
  • A bill in South Dakota intended to force transgender students into separate restrooms and locker room facilities. 
  • Indiana's legislature considers a fine of up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to one year in jail for transgender people using facilities that correspond to their gender. 

The ACLU has launched a petition the protect transgender students' rights.   Information is available here

January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Apple Maps Criticized for Sending Abortion Seekers to CPCs

RH Reality Check (Jan, 29, 2106): Apple Maps Sends Abortion Seekers to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, by Jenn Stanley: 

iPhone owners in many cities who use the Apple Maps app to search for abortion clinics have been led astray, instead finding results for adoption agencies and deceitful crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

RH Reality Check describes an investigation by Fast Company in January, which tested Siri and Apple Maps in San Francisco.  When searching "abortion" in Maps or asking Siri "Where can I find an abortion provider," no abortion providers were included in the search results.  Instead, users were directed to an adoption agency almost 30 miles outside of San Francisco.  

Apple first received complaints about the problem five years ago.  

“My hunch is that this isn’t political at all, even now,” Sean Gourley, a data scientist and learning algorithms expert based in Silicon Valley, told Fast Company. “Apple is not a search company, unlike Google, and its knowledge base is very different.”

After it first received complaints in 2011, Apple responded that the results were not intentional and that steps would be taken to improve Siri as it was moved from "beta to a final product."  Other tech companies have taken proactive steps to provide accurate information about abortion.  In 2014, Google took steps to remove deceptive ads for Crisis Pregnancy Centers because they violated Google police against deceptive advertising.  RH Reality Check reports that since the initial Fast Company investigation,  "[s]earch results seemed to have improved over the past week."


January 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

As Zika Virus Spreads, El Salvador Urges Against Pregnancies

Scientific American, Reuters (Jan. 22, 2016): El Salvador Urges Against Pregnancies Until 2016 as Zika Virus Spreads, by Reuters Staff:

El Salvador on Thursday urged women in the Central American nation to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 to avoid their children developing birth defects from the mosquito-borne Zika virus which has rampaged through the Americas.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses. Health experts are unsure why the virus, which was first detected in Africa in 1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year, is spreading so rapidly in Brazil and neighboring countries.

The virus has been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America, though there is currently no treatment or vaccine. Zika virus has been linked to children born with underdeveloped brains and paralysis in adults. While it is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, new evidence suggests that Zika virus may also be sexually transmitted. 

Response to the spread of the virus has varied from country to country, with some governments issuing travel warnings to countries where the virus has been found. Other countries have issued recommendations that women avoid pregnancy for as long as two years, despite lack of access to birth control methods or abortion in some cases. 

More information can be found at the BBC or New York Times and Vocativ


January 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Women Wrote Only 37% of Reproductive Issue Stories in 2014-15

Feministing (Jan. 22, 2016): Infographic: Women Only Wrote 37% of Reproductive Issue Stories, by Sesali B.: 

A report issued by the Women's Media Center on major news outlets between 2014 and 2015, found that more than half of reproductive issues stories were written by men. 

[A]fter looking at 1,385 news stories, columns, op-eds, and editorials covering reproductive issues, 52% of the stories were written by men, while only 37% were written by women. And in presidential election coverage related to abortion and contraception, the gender gap widened with male reporters accounting for 67% of the writers. 

Looking at 12 of the top media outlets, not a single one of them had women writing the majority of their stories. WMC’s research also reveals how this imbalance has consequences for who gets quoted in those stories. They found that male reporters were more likely to quote male sources in their stories, while female reporters were more likely to quote women. The study also looked at which topics related to reproductive health were covered most.

January 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Grand Jury Clears Planned Parenthood and Indicts Makers of "Sting" Video

NY Times (Jan. 26, 2016): A Charged Blend of Law and Politics in a Texas Planned Parenthood Case, by Manny Fernandez:

On Tuesday, the Harris County district attorney announced that a grand jury investigation - based on an undercover video at a Houston abortion clinic purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials seeking to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue - had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.  However, the grand jury indicted two of the individuals involved in making the video.  David R. Daleiden and Sandra S. Merritt were charged with tampering with a government record,  a felony,  for creating fake IDs that resembled California drivers licenses that they used in their meeting at Planned Parenthood.  Daleiden also faces a misdemeanor charge relating to purchasing human organs based on a email he sent offering to buy fetal tissue. 


January 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bureau of Justice Statistics Releases Report on Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Feministing (Jan. 21, 2016): DOJ Campus Survey: At One School, 1 in 2 Women have been Sexually Assaulted, by Mahroh Jahangiri:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released yesterday the overall results of a sexual assault survey of nine schools. More than 23,000 students responded. .... Overall, 25% of female respondents across the 9 schools reported experiencing some form of sexual assault since they enrolled at their schools. There was high variability between schools: at one, 1 in 2 women were sexually assaulted during their time in college; at another, 1 in 8.

Issues highlighted by the report include: 

  • Rates of sexual assault are highest not only among undergraduate women, but for those students identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or another identity not listed on the survey.
  • Intimate partner violence: nearly one out of ten college students has experienced violence within a relationship.
  • Rates of reporting are low, with only "1.1% of sexual battery incidents and 4.2% of rape incidents" reported to any law enforcement agency.
  • The educational impacts of campus rape are serious, with many victims considering dropping out of school or transferring, and others dropping classes as a result. 

The full report can be found here

January 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trust Black Women and Halt Attacks on Bodily Autonomy

RH Reality Check (Jan. 14, 2016): For Black Women's Lives to Matter, Legislators Must Halt Attacks on Our Bodily Autonomy, by Monica Simpson:

Monica Simson of SisterSong responds to comments made by Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) criticizing the Congressional Black Caucus and the Black Lives Matter movement for not working to limit abortion access.  Simpson calls out Duffy and other politicians who seek to push aside the Black Lives Matter movement's emphasis on Black lives by declaring that all lives matter.  Recent attempts such as the "All Lives Matter Act" introduced by Rep. Mike Moon (R-MO) which seeks to define a fertilized egg as a person further co-opt the movement.  "Rep. Moon sees an opportunity to use the mantle of a movement that is about the dignity of the Black community to mount an attack on Black women’s access to care." Simpson writes:

Black women have historically faced disparities in access to reproductive health care, including abortion. Chronic health conditions plague our community, and yet many of the lawmakers who claim to care about all lives—which should mean our lives too—have been silent, or worse, they have pushed for steeper cuts to health programs.

Where is their care for Black babies when Black women have endured forced sterilization in hospitals, in prisons, in our doctor’s offices? Where is their concern about the fact that Black women experience a high rate of maternal mortality or that Black families are more likely to struggle with food insecurity and to become homeless?

Simpson emphasizes that for Black women the fight to dismantle white supremacy and the fight against those who seek to control Black women's reproduction has always been intrinsically linked. "We do need politicians to Trust Black Women to make our own decisions about our bodies, our families, and our lives and to join us in speaking out against such vitriol when their colleagues don’t."

January 26, 2016 in Race & Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 25, 2016

California Jails Denying Reproductive Health Care

RH Reality Check (Jan. 19, 2016): ACLU Report: California Jails Denying Reproductive Health Care, by Nicole Night Shine:

Incarcerated California women are denied abortion services, prenatal care, and even menstrual pads, according to a scathing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California report released Tuesday that finds some county jails deny, delay, and ignore prisoners’ reproductive health care.

Among the issues highlighted in the report:

  • Delayed and denied abortion access
  • Influencing abortion access: Interviews with one jail administrator indicated that jail staff would encourage certain women—those with multiple children or those with chemical dependencies—to have an abortion.
  • Dangerous conditions for pregnant inmates, including denial of prenatal and emergency visits with medical staff and use of shackles on pregnant inmates.
  • Lack of accommodations for nursing inmates.
  • Shortage of menstrual supplies.
  • Lack of safeguards for LGBTQ people.
  • Poor tracking of sexual assault.

The report also urges abolition of policies that limit reproductive health care to women whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth. It recommends addressing the heightened risk of sexual assault for incarcerated transgender women and providing menstruation pads to all those who need them, regardless of whether the person is housed in a men’s or women’s jail.

January 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Significant increase in abortion restrictions since 2011

Vox (January 22, 2016): A quarter of all post-Roe abortion restrictions were passed in the last 5 years, by Sarah Kliff and Javier Zarracina:

States have passed 288 abortion restrictions since 2008. These restrictions constitute 27% of restrictions passed in the 42 years since Roe v. Wade.  Abortion restrictions began rising in 2011 following the national debate about whether abortion would be covered in health plans offered on the health care exchanges created by Obamacare.  Republican legislators took the battle to the state level to introduce legislation banning insurance coverage for abortion. According to Vox "Abortion restrictions often come in waves; one state will pass a new type of law, and then others follow":

The waves of new abortion restrictions tend to cluster around specific approaches to regulation. About half of those enacted since 2011 fall into four categories: bans on abortion at 20 weeks, limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, limitations on medical abortions, and targeted regulations of abortion providers (like the admitting privilege laws).

January 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tubal Ligation at Issue in Lawsuit

Daily Beast (Jan. 20, 2016): Catholic Hospitals Are Blocking a Basic Form of Contraception, by Brandy Zadrozny:

Many women choose to have their tubes tied as a pregnancy preventative.  Married women may choose this method of sterilization when they have finished growing their families.  They sometimes desire to have this procedure performed at the same time they are in surgery for  a Caesarean section. 

But the belief that tubal ligation is intrinsically evil is a stance assumed by Catholic hospitals in many regions without alternative sources of medical care.  A lawsuit brought by Physicians for Reproductive Health (PHR) against what may be the largest hospital provider in California charges violates of the state's anti-discrimination, business and health and safety laws.  PHR is arguing that the religious refusal places an undue burden on women who have to travel to facilities often far away from where their physician practices or who are forced to submit to two separate surgeries.  The group objects to the intrusion of Catholic doctrine in the doctor-patient relationship. 

According to the ACLU and MergerWatch, the number of Catholic acute-care hospitals in the United States continues to rise.

January 23, 2016 in Contraception | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mother Jones Chronicles the Travails of Roe v. Wade

Mother Jones (Jan. 22, 2016): How Roe v. Wade Survived 43 Years of Abortion Wars, by Hannah Levintova:

Mother Jones has been on the front lines throughout the abortion wars with its up-close-and-personal profiles of women making difficult, personal reproductive choices and clinic staff dedicated to helping them.  In this chronicle of its coverage, MJ traces the current spate of legislative rollbacks of Roe v. Wade to the unveiling of the "undue burden" standard in the 1992 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.  Perhaps most poignant is the following insight: In contrast to what Roe v. Wade accomplished back in 1973--stopping deaths from botched abortions "overnight"-- today "discussions of women's safety are more often heard in statehouses enacting further restrictions on abortion."  There have been more anti-abortion laws passed since 2010 than in any other five-year period since Roe was decided. 

January 22, 2016 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Frozen Embryos and the Anti-Abortion Movement

New York Times (Jan. 19, 2016): Anti-Abortion Groups Join Forces Over Frozen Embryos, by Tamar Lewin:

Disputes by divorcing couples over frozen embryos are nothing new.  In the past they have been decided in favor of the party who does not want to procreate or in accordance with any contracts the couple executed to control their disposition.  But a new litigation strategy is for the party seeking to have children with the embryos without the consent of the other to hire counsel better known for their anti-choice stance in the abortion wars.  The legal theory these lawyers expound is that an embryo has a fundamental interest in being born, ergo, that the party who wishes to procreate should be allowed to do so.  The strategy fits nicely within the "personhood" theory which holds that an embryo is a person at the moment of conception.  Indeed, counsel in an ongoing appeal in a frozen-embryo dispute in Missouri cite the Missouri law that life begins at conception.  Of course a court will probably not find the existence of "human life" to be synonymous with the existence of a "human person," if only to adhere with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which remains the law of the land.   


January 20, 2016 in Anti-Choice Movement, Assisted Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Illusory Right to Abortion in Italy

New York Times (Jan. 17, 2016): On Paper, Italy Allows Abortions, but Few Doctors Will Perform Them, by Gaia Pianigiani: 

Thirty years ago, the long fight for abortion rights resulted in a law permits abortion with ninety days of pregnancy and later for women in mental or physical danger or in cases of serious fetal pathologies.  But nearly three-quarters of the country's gynecologists--more in some regions--are conscientious objectors to the law, reflecting the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the delivery of medical care.  Many non-objecting physicians, who tend to be part of the older generation of practitioners, are approaching retirement age.  Non-invasive abortions are completely unavailable in some regions, despite a national directive that has been in place since 2009.  The European Committee of Social Rights has deemed the lack of access to abortion in certain regions detrimental to the health of women. 






January 19, 2016 in Abortion, Culture, International, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Planned Parenthood Sues Over Fraudulent Videos

New York Times (Jan. 15, 2016): Planned Parenthood Sues Abortion Foes, by Erik Eckholm:

Planned Parenthood mounted a legal counterattack Thursday against the anti-abortion activists who used covertly taped videos to accuse the organization of trading in aborted baby parts, charging in a federal lawsuit that “anti-abortion extremists” had engaged in a three-year “complex criminal enterprise.”

Defendants in the lawsuit include the Center for Medical Progress, which created and disseminated the videos and is registered as a charitable trust in California, and the head of Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, described as a "dangerous and reckless extremist" in the complaint.  These activists hoped to convince the American public that Planned Parenthood was illegally trading in aborted baby parts, an allegation that was not substantiated in subsequent congressional and state investigations.  The videos have nonetheless fueled the campaign to de-fund Planned Parenthood and have triggered vandalism, harassments and threats of violence at its clinics.   

The complaint charges fraud and violations of conspiracy laws, state privacy laws and specific statutes and seeks money damages.  The complaint may be found here.


January 15, 2016 in Abortion, In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Abortion Battleground in a Southern Swing State

New  York Times (Jan. 11, 2016): Law on Ultrasounds Reignites the Abortion Debate in a 2016 Battleground, by Richard Fausset:

North Carolina has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, one the Hilary Clinton campaign has called "outrageous."  Any doctor who performs an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy must submit an ultrasound to the state.  The state says it wishes to verify that doctors are not performing post-20-week abortions.  Opponents of the law, which also extends the mandated waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours, call it an effort to intimidate both doctors, who know that determining gestational age is an inexact science, and women, who may hesitate before allowing information about their pregnancy to be shared with a governmental agency.  The law also requires doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks to send the health department the findings and analysis that were used to determine that a medical emergency existed.  The controversy has become an important issue in the political sphere, as Democrats harness liberal anger in an attempt to unseat the Republican governor Pat McCrory in his bid for a second term. 

January 13, 2016 in Abortion, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Symposium on Little Sisters of the Poor

SoctusBlog (Dec. 17, 2015): Symposium: Integrity, Mission, and the Little Sisters of the Poor, by Richard W. Garnett:

The current iteration of the religious-freedom challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s preventive-services mandate (not, as is sometimes suggested, to the act itself) is called Zubik v. Burwell. This is unfortunate. True, the caption choice improves the “optics” for the Obama administration and reduces the likelihood of awkward headlines and embarrassing talking points. However, calling the case – as I will – Little Sisters of the Poor better captures its bizarre core and character. Calling it by this name reminds us that the administration has not reluctantly stumbled into but has instead doggedly pursued a conflict with a religious community of Roman Catholic nuns over whether and how its employees will receive government-mandated, cost-free insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives. Regardless of how the Court rules, that this pursuit appears to have been for the administration a matter not merely of policy but also of principle is extraordinary.


January 12, 2016 in Contraception, In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Although Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood is Still Closed, Protestors are Back

Jezebel (Dec. 19, 2015): Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood is Still Closed, but the Protestors are Back, by Stassa Edwards:

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic where three people were killed and nine were injured is still closed but, as The Guardian reports, anti-choice protesters have already returned.

The clinic has been closed since November 27 when Robert Lewis Dear walked in and opened fire on patients and staff. Though PP employees haven’t even entered the building since the shooting, anti-choice protesters replete with obligatory signage, stand on the corner outside of the closed clinic.


January 11, 2016 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Poll Shows Support for Abortion is Highest in Two Years

Associated Press (Dec. 22, 2015): Support for Legal Abortion at Highest Level in Two Years, by Nancy Benac and Emily Swanson:

Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

However, just over a third of Americans want laws on abortion to be stricter than they are now, the poll shows, while a quarter think they should be less strict.

January 10, 2016 in Abortion, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0)