Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Amnesty International (May 23, 2107): Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the United States:
Amnesty International has issued a new report that looks at the impact of pregnancy criminalization laws in the U.S. with a focus on laws that are used to arrest and prosecute women based on the belief that they are harming their fetus. The report focuses on two states Alabama and Tennessee. Alabama is the state with the greatest number of prosecutions of pregnant women. Between 2014 and 2016, Tennessee made it a crime to give birth to child that showed signs of exposure to drugs. Amnesty asserts that these laws are counter-productive because fear of prosecution deters pregnant women from seeking health care and drug treatment.
“Across the USA, the heavy-handed policing of pregnant women’s behavior is shattering patient trust in health services with devastating consequences. These laws put pregnant women in a double bind, forcing them to choose between risking their health and risking punishment,” said Carrie Eisert, Policy Adviser at Amnesty International, who authored the report.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Washington Post (May 15, 2017): Trump expansion of abortion 'gag rule' will restrict $8.8 billion in U.S. aid, by Ariana Eunjung Cha and Carol Morello:
On Monday, President Trump's executive order blocking U.S. aid to groups that counsel or provide referrals for abortion went into effect. Known as the "Global Gag Rule" because the order cuts funding to health organizations for merely discussing abortion with patients, the order's restrictions are tied to $8.8 billion in foreign health assistance. Trump's order massively expands previous versions of the Global Gag Rule. Republican presidents only applied the Global Gag Rule to about $600 million in family planning funding. Trump's Global Gag Rule will apply to other health programs including AIDS, malaria and child health funding. The George W. Bush administration specifically excluded funding for the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in recognition that tying the Global Gag Rule to PEPFAR funding would undermine the program's effectiveness.
In the past studies have shown that the Global Gag Rule actually has increased abortion rates because of closure of health care centers and lack of contraceptive access. Although the Trump Administration has stressed that it is not cutting funding dollars, many established health care organizations may reject the funding based on ethical concerns.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Mother Jones (May 12, 2017): Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mother's Day, by Brandon E. Patterson:
Organized around Mother's Day, National Black Mamas Bail Out Day raised nearly $500,000 to bail out over 50 women around the country. Organizers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Oakland and 13 other cities used relationships with criminal justice organizations to identify women to bail out of jail.
The number of women behind bars in the United States has increased 700 percent since 1980, according to the Sentencing Project. More than 100,000 women are currently in jail. Many have not been convicted of anything but are unable to make bail, and a disproportionate number of them are black. Eighty percent of incarcerated women are mothers, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.
Nationally, the median bail set for a felony charge is $10,000, almost a year's income for the average person unable to meet bail, according to the Sentencing Policy Initiative. Nearly 90 percent of inmates awaiting trial can't afford bail; The average bail amount in felony cases has nearly tripled since 1990.
Organizers in some cities held welcome events for newly freed women and their families. The groups are also raising money for a similar bail out effort in honor of Father's day on June 18.
Monday, May 15, 2017
NPR (May 12, 2017): Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves Moms in Danger, by Nina Martin & Renee Montagne:
NPR and ProPublica profile Lauren Bloomstien, a 33 neonatal nurse who died in childbirth. Every year in the U.S., 700-900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes. The U.S. maternal mortality rate is three times that of Canada and six times that of Scandinavia. In recent years, Great Britain has seen a dramatic decline in maternal mortality, but maternal deaths in the U.S. increased from 2000 to 2014, and according the CDC Foundation, almost 60% of those deaths are preventable.
Maternal mortality rates are significantly higher among African-Americans, low-income women and women who live in rural areas, but according to NPR and ProPublica, maternal mortality affects women of all races, ethnicities and income levels.
[T]he worsening U.S. maternal mortality numbers contrast sharply with the impressive progress in saving babies' lives. Infant mortality has fallen to its lowest point in history, the CDC reports, reflecting 50 years of efforts by the public health community to prevent birth defects, reduce preterm birth, and improve outcomes for very premature infants. The number of babies who die annually in the U.S. — about 23,000 in 2014 — still greatly exceeds the number of expectant and new mothers who die, but the ratio is narrowing.
The divergent trends for mothers and babies highlight a theme that has emerged repeatedly in ProPublica's and NPR's reporting. In recent decades, under the assumption that it had conquered maternal mortality, the American medical system has focused more on fetal and infant safety and survival than on the mother's health and wellbeing.
In the U.K. maternal deaths are treated as system failures, and a committee of experts investigates every death from pregnancy or childbirth complications. In the U.S. maternal mortality reviews are left to the states. Thirty-one states have maternal mortality review process. A federal bill Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 would authorize federal funding for states to establish or improve review processes.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
by Richard Storrow
Two op-eds appearing in the New York Times recently addressed the intersection of abortion and economics. Both develop their arguments around Bernie Sanders's recent appearances with abortion rights supporter Jon Ossof, Democratic candidate for Congress in Georgia, and abortion rights foe Heath Mello, a pro-life Democatic candidate for Omaha mayor. The seemingly contradictory optics these appearances create are concerning for progressives who fear that the Democratic Party, in trying to woo voters, may move reproductive rights to the back burner. They appear to be right. Democratic Party National Committee chair Thomas Perez has made clear that the party's focus must now be on economics instead of "social issues" like reproductive rights and abortion.
In Why Abortion Is an Economic Issue, Bryce Covert speaks out against the efforts of the Democratic Party to revive itself by divorcing issues of reproductive rights from issues of economics. "To pretend that these issues are different and that one can be abandoned for the other," he writes, "is disproved in countless women's lives." In The Problem with Linking Abortion and Economics, Lori Szala takes aim at the "enormous baggage" freighting the old saw that "women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder without children holding them back." The argument justifies eliminating beings "who impede our economic progress," and urges that abortion is a simple solution to deep, systemic inequalities.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
New York Times (May 6, 2017): Opponents of Abortion Warily Measure Progress, by Jeremy W. Peters:
President Trump has proven himself to be a friend of abortion opponents. Left unclear, though, is whether he has any influence in the battle over the roughly $500 million Planned Parenthood receives each year. Moderate Republicans are not lining up to end support of Planned Parenthood. Even the bill passed in the House of Representatives last Thursday only reduces funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and leaves the organization eligible for money to support family planning. The Senate will prove more of a hurdle in any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
Conservative Republican attempts to revive interest in completely defunding Planned Parenthood have now taken the form of vilifying the organization for focusing more on defeating Republicans than on supporting women. The position is hopelessly out of step with American opinion. The majority of Americans believe the group should receive public funding for its work.
Christian conservatives, whom President Trump hopes to reward for supporting him in 2016, are becoming wary of his attempts to prove that he is a friend of their causes. He has, for example, refused to end workplace protections for LGBTQ employees put in place by President Obama in 2014, although last March he did make the protections harder to enforce. Christian conservatives are upset that the lives of those forced by Obama's executed order not the discriminate against LGBTQ employees are being "destroyed by the demands of the sexual identity activist class . . . ." Trump may not be up to the task of coming to the aid of groups who hold such extreme and unyielding perspectives.