Friday, September 30, 2016
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.”
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Advocate (Sept. 19, 2016): An LGBTQ Organization Puts Its Weight Behind Ending an Insidious, Antiwoman Law, by Candace Bond-Theriault:
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, the law that withholds coverage for abortion from women enrolled in Medicaid (with exceptions for rape, incest and physical endangerment). The law makes true reproductive choice available only to those with the financial means to pay for their care. This year, United for Abortion Coverage Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 1) will include the National LGBTQ Task Force, which has announced its commitment to fighting anti-choice measures like the Hyde Amendment through its All* Above All initiative.
The inspiration for All* Above All is the "intentional cross-movement collaboration" that can flourish when groups that may appear to have disparate agendas recognize that the people working against them are the same whether they discriminate against LGBTQ people or actively work to deny access to reproductive health care. In addition, women who have abortions face stigma in the same way LGBTQ people do. "The reality remains that LGBTQ people’s access to health care is limited by many intertwined factors, including poverty and racism."
All* Above All is lobbying Congress to pass the Each Woman Act to end bans on abortion coverage.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Bustle (Sept. 14, 2016): This Feminist Rabbi Is Dismantling the Abortion vs. Religion Debate, by Cate Carrejo:
Jewish values emphasize equality and dignity for all people above all. For Rabbi Lori Koffman this means taking care of everyone's health, economic security and well being. Reproductive justice is a major part of this value system.
Koffman is the chair of the National Council of Jewish Women's Reproductive Justice Initiative, which is aligned with a national coalition of access-to-abortion groups. While many see a contradiction between reproductive justice and religious values, Koffman sees them as inextricably intertwined.
"The decision whether and when to have a family is one of the holiest decisions anyone will ever make," Koffman says. "It really should be up to the woman and her partner if she has one or their partner if they have one and their own religious faith, any religious advisors if they have them, and really nobody else."
Koffman feels strongly that no one's religious values should be allowed to shut down someone else's opposing religious values. The basis of her commitment to reproductive justice, then, lies in the freedom to choose: "I can exercise my religious belief, because I can then choose to have an abortion or not. Someone who sees the world differently from a religious standpoint, then they can make the choice not to have an abortion because their religious values don't support abortion."
Koffman will continue speaking out for a reproductive justice that includes a multiplicity of reproductive health choices.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
IrishCentral (Sept. 19, 2016): Former Irish President McAleese Calls on Pope to End Contraception Ban, by James O'Shea:
A "Scholars Statement" that includes the signature of former president of Ireland Mary McAleese (1997-2011) calls on Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to bring its ban on contraception to an end. The statement cites the "[t]he damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself" as a compelling reason to end the ban but more importantly notes that the ban has no basis in divine law.
McAleese's participation in the statement stems in part from her upbringing. She has eight siblings and at least 60 cousins, all 69 produced by her mother and her mother's siblings. Growing up, McAleese and her siblings were dissuaded by her parents from having such a large family. Her parents, she concludes, and all Catholics who have blindly followed the 1969 encyclical to be fruitful and multiply, have been "infantilized and robbed" by the church.
Today, the vast majority of Catholics worldwide ignore the contraception ban.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Reacting to how restrictive abortion laws block low-income women's access to reproductive health care and force them across state borders, Kaiya Lyons's article in the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Journal on Gender, Race, and Justice develops the theory that Congress's power to regulate commerce vests it with the authority to invalidate such laws. The abstract follows.
The Supreme Court has consistently held that the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and without undue burden should be preserved. However, the ability of a woman to exercise that right today is as intimately connected to her economic privilege and geographic location as it was in the days preceding the Court's landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. As a result of the great deference assigned to state legislatures by Roe and its progeny, increasingly restrictive abortion laws have been enacted across the country that obstruct low income women's access to reproductive health care.
This article seeks to outline how the "seismic shift" in reproductive rights law since the 2010 midterm election forced women to travel into other states to receive abortions, and thus created the very interstate market that would allow Congress to invalidate such laws under the Commerce Clause. While unlikely in the current political climate, such a legislative effort could effectively circumvent the ability of the Supreme Court to further narrow its abortion jurisprudence. This article argues that federal action is necessary to protect the rights of low income and economically vulnerable women for whom abortion is a vital piece of comprehensive reproductive health care.
Friday, September 23, 2016
New York Times (Sept. 19, 2016): Want a Zika Test? It's Not Easy, by Roni Caryn Rabin:
Getting a Zika test is harder than you thought, even for people who have recently traveled to areas where Zika is a big problem and who are planning to have children. People are discovering that you cannot simply show up at a public health department and be tested on demand.
The difficulty stems from a Centers for Disease Control directive establishing strict guidelines for Zika testing. The guidelines give priority to pregnant women with possible exposure to Zika and to people with Zika-like symptoms. This leaves out people who have possibly been exposed to Zika and are trying to conceive. The guidance for this population is that they engage in protected sexual intercourse for at least eight weeks after their fear exposure. The World Health Organization recommends six months of protected sexual intercourse before trying to conceive. These recommendations are meant to prevent an onslaught of requests for Zika testing that would swamp local public health authorities. They also help define when insurers will cover Zika testing.
Testing for Zika is a complex process that may require three tests for a conclusive result. There is no test for detecting the infection in semen, however.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Associated Press (Sept. 16, 2016): Oklahoma's First New Abortion Clinic in 40 Years Opens Doors, by Sean Murphy:
In a state where Republicans have passed some of the most draconian restrictions on abortion, six physicians are now providing abortion care and other services at a new clinic opened on Oklahoma City's south side. Oklahoma City had been the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion provider. The new clinic will perform somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 abortions in its first year, a number that is expected to climb to 3,000 annually.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Since 2013, the Urban Resource Institute’s program URIPALS (People and Animals Living Safely) has helped families with pets escape domestic violence and enter shelter together. Now the Institute has published a white paper exploring the connection between domestic violence and pet abuse. Excerpts from the report follow:
The connection between domestic violence and pet abuse is very real, and in many cases, pet ownership becomes a barrier to safety because of the survivor’s unwillingness to leave their pet behind. The choice in many cases is forced because there are few programs that allow survivors of domestic violence to bring their pets with them when entering a shelter. This reality points to a great need both in New York City and nationally for more services for domestic violence survivors who are pet owners. It is vital for domestic violence service providers, animal advocates, funders and government partners to work together to support the growth of programs like URIPALS in order to ensure that people are able to leave an abusive environment with their entire family—pets included.
Leveraging findings from URIPALS, the white paper reveals:
- Insights from pet owners and survivors of domestic violence
- Recommendations for building a co-sheltering model, where people and pets are able to live together in shelter
- Current barriers to safety for pet owners seeking shelter
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
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.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel have posted their analysis of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt to SSRN. The abstract follows:
This essay offers a brief account of the Supreme Court’s most recent abortion decision, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and its implications for the future of abortion regulation. We draw on our recent article on health-justified abortion restrictions — Casey and the Clinic Closings: When “Protecting Health” Obstructs Choice, 125 Yale L.J. 1428 (2016) — to describe the social movement strategy and the lower court rulings that led to the decision. We show that in Whole Woman’s Health the Court applies the undue burden framework of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in ways that have the potential to reshape the abortion conflict.
In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court insisted on an evidentiary basis for a state’s claim to restrict abortion in the interests of protecting women’s health, and found none in the Texas law under review. The Court instructed judges how to assess the asserted health benefits of regulations that predictably will force clinics to close: it required judges to balance the demonstrated benefit of the law against the burden that a shrunken abortion infrastructure will have on the ability of women to exercise their constitutional rights.
As we show, Whole Woman’s Health clarifies the law defining what counts as a burden and what counts as a benefit to be balanced within the Casey framework. Particularly notable, even unexpected, is the Court’s capacious understanding of “burden” as the cumulative impact of abortion regulation on women’s lived experience of exercising their constitutional rights. The decision thus offers a robust reaffirmation of the right to abortion and of the need for judges to protect access to the right. By clarifying what counts as a burden and what counts as a benefit to be balanced within the Casey framework, the decision constrains regulations explicitly aimed at protecting fetal life as well as those ostensibly intended to protect women’s health.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
New York Times (Sept. 13, 2016): Italy's 'Fertility Day' Ads Anger Women Stymied by Lack of Support, by Gaia Pianigiani:
Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The declining birthrate has led to fears that as the population ages, there will be insufficient people in the workforce. A recent government sponsored campaign to promote Sept. 22 as "Fertility Day" has led to anger because of its failure to address the lack of government and employer support for families. One woman remarked " The government encourages us to have babies, and then the main welfare system in Italy is still the grandparents."
The Italian family size has been shrinking for some time, but also coincides with the recent economic slowdown. Many women fear that their jobs will be in jeopardy if they have children. Although France also has suffered from a bad economy, it has far more generous social security programs, including day care and subsidies for families with children. In France women have an average of two children. In Italy, the birth rate is 1.37.
Italy's current government has tried to help families, instituting a baby bonus of 80 to 160 euros for low and middle income families and approving labor laws that give more flexibility on parental leave, but Italy's allocation of 1 percent of its GDP on social protection benefits is still half the European average.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Salon (Sept. 10, 2016): Phyllis Schlafly and the global right, by Jonathan Zimmerman:
Following Phyllis Schlafly's death last week, most articles have focused on her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, promotion of family values and traditional gender roles and opposition to abortion, gay rights and sex education in the U.S. While these conservative values are often associated with opposition to internationalism, Schlafly was also part of an active global conservative movement.
In its early iterations, this international movement focused mainly on Christians in the West. But it took a truly global turn in the 1990s, when activists like Schlafly began to coordinate with conservatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They coalesced around opposition to the 1994 International Conference on Population Development in Cairo, which endorsed “reproductive rights,” including access to contraception and sex education, for all human beings.
Five majority Muslim countries, two mostly Catholic countries and the Vatican dissented from the Cairo resolution. Following the conference, the right created its own global networks including the World Congress of Families, which brought together religious conservatives across national boundaries and faiths. The Congress continues to be active today at the U.N. and other international forums.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Huffington Post (Sept. 9, 2016): Obama Moves To Protect Planned Parenthood Funding, Permanently, by Laura Bassett:
The Obama administration is proposing a new Health and Human Services Regulation, which provides that states cannot withhold Title X federal family planning money for any reason other than the provider's "ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner." This would prohibit states from defunding Planned Parenthood because some if its clinics also provide abortions.
Title X is already limited to the provision of preventative health care and family planning and cannot be used for abortions. Still, politicians in 11 states have proposed blocking funds to Planned Parenthood because it also provides abortions. Currently, Planned Parenthood serves about a third of Title X recipients, who are low income women - 85% of Title X recipients have incomes below $23,500. Title X funds are used to subsidize contraceptives and cancer and sexually transmitted disease screenings,
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Nation (Sept. 8, 2016): The Story Behind the Maternal Mortality Rate in Texas is Even Sadder Than We Realize, by Katha Pollitt:
A recent report found that the state of Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Opinion writers have noted that the maternal mortality rate doubled from 2011-14 after Texas slashed its family planning budget, closing many family planning clinics that provided the first line of reproductive health care to low-income women. But, Pollitt notes that the cuts were a contributing factor to a deeper problem - the lack of medical care for low income women.
Most Texas women who died post-pregnancy didn’t do so in the delivery room, but six weeks or more after childbirth. The three top causes: cardiac events, drug overdoses, and hypertension.
This suggests that the health care that women receive both before and after pregnancy has a strong impact on maternal mortality rates. Texas is one of 19 states that declined to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, and women who qualify for coverage under the state emergency Medicaid program lose coverage 60 days after birth.
Structural racism is also a major factor in maternal mortality rates:
In Texas, the maternal-mortality rate for white women is in step with their pregnancy rate; for Hispanic women, it’s actually lower. But black women are 11.4 percent of all pregnant women in the state and a whopping 29 percent of those who die.
The maternal mortality statistics in Texas should be a wake up call to re-evaluate the state's health policies. Instead, the state recently allocated $1.6 million of its women's health care funding to an anti-abortion group that has no experience providing health services. Unless the state starts putting health care ahead of politics, we will not see a significant improvement in maternal mortality rates.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Vox (Sept. 6, 2016): Obamacare was supposed to make all birth control free. As a doctor, I see that is not happening, by Tracey Wilkinson:
This article by Tracey Wilkinson examines the gap between the promise of free birth control under Obamacare and the realities for women seeking insurance coverage for contraceptives. She writes:
Too often, I have patients return or call my office telling me that their insurance didn’t cover the birth control I prescribed, that there was a copay they could not afford or some roadblock has appeared that effectively denied them the method of contraception we had discussed.
Although Obamacare requires that insurance companies cover 18 different types of FDA approved contraception, it does not mean that insurers must cover all drug within those categories. For instance the 18 types of contraception include three types of oral contraceptive pills, but there are over 100 contraceptive pills on the market. Insurers need only cover one of each type of pill and can change the drug they cover without notice. Even if the doctor prescribes the medication covered by a woman's insurance, her pharmacy might not stock it.
Also insurance companies can require that women try a cheaper option before it covers a more expensive form of contraceptive or require that the doctors complete a waiver or exemption process to justify the prescription of certain contraceptives.
The Kaiser Foundation recently issued a report documenting these types of administrative barriers in 5 states. The report found a wide variety of contraceptive coverages. Perhaps more concerning, the researchers noted that it was difficult to compile the information for the report because coverage information "was not always easy to find, readily available, or even known by the insurance company employees. This highlights again how challenging this is for a consumer or clinician."
Dr. Wilkson laments the de facto restrictions on contraceptive access. In addition to the burdens on doctors and patients, she notes that there is no benefit to withholding contraception. She states:
What is most frustrating about the current state of contraceptive coverage is that it’s hard to determine who, if anyone, benefits from this restricted access. Unplanned pregnancies are very expensive not only to society but also to insurance companies. The cost of paying for contraception for a year (or even 10 years) is significantly cheaper than paying for prenatal care and subsequent labor and delivery. The estimated costs of unplanned teenage pregnancies in the United States each year is $9.4 billion.
In addition to the financial costs of restricting access to contraception, she notes that "[e]vidence exists showing that removing barriers to contraceptive use is effective and leads to a sharp decline in unplanned pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates."
Thursday, September 8, 2016
If/When/How, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and U.C. Berkeley School of Law's Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice is accepting submissions for the twelfth annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights.
The suggested theme is: Balancing Burdens and Benefits after Whole Woman's Health v. Hellertstedt. However, the Writing Prize invites submissions on all reproductive rights and justice topics. Please refer to the attached Call for Submissions for guidance on the suggested theme, as well as additional requirements.
Winning authors will receive cash prizes: $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place), or $250 (3rd place). The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change. All winning authors will also receive copies of Melissa Murray's and Kristin Luker's Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice.
The deadline for submissions is Monday, February 27, 2017.
Information about the Sarah Weddington Writing Prize is available here: http://www.ifwhenhow.org/resources/2016-writing-prize-call-for-submissions/
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Rewire (August 30, 2016): Patients 'Throwing Up in the Parking Lot' Under Ohio Abortion Law, by Nicole Knight:
A new study analyzing an Ohio law regulating medication abortion found that "[t]here is no evidence that the [law] led to improved abortion outcomes. Indeed, our findings suggest the opposite." In 2011, Ohio passed a law requiring that abortion providers adhere to FDA guidelines from 2000 when administering drugs for a medication abortion. It is common for doctors to prescribe medication "off label," and at the time Ohio passed the law, the FDA guidelines were actually inconsistent with prevailing medical standards of care. In March, the FDA changed its guidelines to make it consistent with medical best practices.
The study compared the medical charts of women in the years before and after the Ohio law went into effect. The study found that after the law was passed, the number of medication abortions declined 80% and the patients that had medication abortions under the state requirements suffered more side effects and paid more for the two-drug regime. Under the Ohio law, doctors are required to administer three times the dose of mifepristone than is advised by current medical evidence. The increased dosage and a state required extra visit to the abortion provider drove the cost of the procedure up 29%.
Despite the changes to the FDA protocol earlier this year, the Ohio law still remains in effect.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Anti-choicers get even weirder: After losing in the Supreme Court, abortion foes turn to desperate distortion
Salon (August 17, 2016): Anti-choicers get even weirder: After losing in the Supreme Court, abortion foes turn to desperate distortion, by Amanda Marcotte
In the wake of the landmark victory of Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, Amanda Marcotte argues that the anti-choice movement has been "sent back to the drawing board" and their two new tactics are spins on old classics: "first, trying to trick people into thinking embryos are babies and then trying to trick people into thinking abortion is too medically dangerous to be allowed." Some newly proposed regulations in Texas, Louisiana and Indiana require women to have a funeral for the 'remains' of a miscarriage or abortion. So far the regulations have been held up in the court.
While these regulations are said to have been "quietly" proposed, anti-choice advocates are a little louder about making claims that abortions are dangerous. Their problem is that statistics published by places like the CDC and Guttmacher show that abortion is extremely safe. Rather than changing their claims, anti-choice supporters argue that they just need more statistics. While these claims seem ridiculous, Marcotte argues that there's a silver lining:
Considering the lengthy history of anti-choice violence against medical providers, this kind of behavior is deeply worrisome.But it also shows the depths of desperation of the anti-choice movement. More data collection will just prove how safe abortion is, and funerals for embryos just remind everyone what kind of sick fantasy lives anti-choice activists have.
Monday, September 5, 2016
Fast Company (August 15, 2016): Patagonia's CEO Explains How To Make On-Site Child Care Pay For Itself, by Rose Marcario:
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario explains that many businesspeople ask how companies can afford the plethora of family centered benefits similar to those offered to Patagonia employees: "company-paid health care and sick time for all employees; paid maternity and paternity leave; access to on-site child care for employees at our headquarters in Ventura, California, and at our Reno, Nevada, distribution center; and financial support to those who need it, among other benefits." Marcario writes that while paid leave should be favored because it is the ethically responsible thing to do, it is also an effective business model, with an-in depth look at the tax benefits, employee retention, and employee engagement fostered by Patagonia's policies. This is something Patagonia has done since its inception, and current leadership maintains a staunch commitment to these values:
For 33 years, Patagonia has provided on-site child care—a mandate from our founders, who believed it was a moral imperative. Even in times of economic struggle the program was never cut, because they believed in providing a supportive work environment for working families. Taking care of our tribe is part of our culture and our commitment to helping our own people live the way they want. It’s true, there are financial costs to offering onsite child care, and they can be expensive if you offer high-quality programs or subsidize your employees’ tuition when onsite care is not available.
But the benefits—financial and otherwise—pay for themselves every year. As a CEO, it’s not even a question in my mind. Business leaders (and their chief financial officers) should take note.
New York Magazine (August 22, 2016): How New York City Is Fighting the Growing Threat of Zika, by Charley Lanyon
With Zika on the rise in places further South like Florida, New York City is taking note of the failure of adequate preparation in other states to avoid the spread of the virus. While the common carrier of the virus, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, generally doesn't fly as far up as New York City, the related Asian Tiger mosquito does bite in New York, and some are worried that they too could become carriers of the virus. New York wants to target mosquitos in a different and more aggressive way, and intends to use a significant portion of its budget to do so:
Thus, the city is going after the Asian tiger mosquito hard, with large-scale predawn insecticide sprayings from the backs of pickup trucks and smaller more-targeted assaults from teams of exterminators with backpacks full of mosquito poison that focus on areas believed to be especially high-risk.
Even with all of the precautions, city officials are quick to reiterate that there has not been a single case of mosquito- transmitted Zika in New York City, and they are hopeful that there will never be one. The biggest danger for catching Zika in the city is through unsafe sexual contact with an individual who has been infected abroad. So at least for now, the ability to control the spread of Zika in New York lies as much with the individual as the city. Be safe.