Saturday, April 28, 2018
Mic (Apr. 9, 2018): Black Mamas Matter Alliance is launching the first National Black Maternal Health Week, by Nataleg
“The goal of the week is to deepen the conversation around black maternal health and amplify black women leaders who are working on the issue,” BMMA steering committee chair Elizabeth Dawes Gay said.
As part of the inaugural National Black Maternal Health Week, organizers are hosting community events in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas to raise awareness about the racial gaps in maternal health and to discuss solutions to closing them. Events include screenings of Death by Delivery, a documentary about black maternal mortality; panels featuring black women advocates; and educational workshops on yoga for birth and postpartum stages.
The conversation around black maternity reached national headlines after tennis superstar Serena Williams revealed in a January interview with Vogue, that she had a serious health scare — blood clots in her lungs — after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis. But when Williams, who has a history of blood clots, first requested a CT scan and blood thinner medicine, her medical practitioners did not listen to her.
Lynn Roberts, co-editor of Radical Reproductive Justice and professor at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, spoke on the impact racism has on the treatment people receive, at the Schomburg Center for Research and Culture in Harlem in March.
“There is a different level of care afforded to people of color, indigenous people, poor people and trans people,” said Roberts.
Organizers for National Black Maternal Health Week are using social media to drive conversation using the hashtag #BMHW18.
Indiana Public Media (Apr. 23, 2018): Planned Parenthood Challenges Indiana’s 2018 Anti-Abortion Law, by Brandon Smith:
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU want a federal judge to strike down parts of Indiana’s new anti-abortion law.
The lawsuit challenges the 2018 law’s new abortion complication reporting requirements and mandated yearly inspections of abortion clinics. Prior to the new law's enactment, such inspections were optional.
The law requires medical providers who treat women for complications arising from abortions to report detailed patient information to the state.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the ACLU of Indiana argue the complication reports are unconstitutionally vague. For instance, one provision requires reporting of “any adverse physical or psychological condition arising from the induction or performance of an abortion.” The suit filed in federal court Monday calls that “so broad as to be meaningless.”
Many of the purported abortion complications the law lists "are both extremely rare for abortions and are more likely to occur after other medical procedures," according to the suit. One condition the law lists — blood clots — is a typical and short-lived side effect of having an abortion, it argues.
The suit challenges the yearly inspection mandate because it says no other health care facilities in the state face such a requirement.
This is the sixth lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood against the state since 2011. The health care provider has won partial or complete victories in each of the previous five.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
CNN (Apr. 20, 2018): Indiana abortion law signed by Mike Pence ruled unconstitutional, by Clare Foran:
A federal appeals court has ruled that an Indiana abortion law signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he served as the state's governor is unconstitutional.
Friday, April 20, 2018
Human Rights Watch (April 16, 2018): A Backward Step for Reproductive Rights in Chile, by José Miguel Vivanco:
Last year, under former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Chile's Congress passed reproducive health reform that lifted a 28-year blanket ban on abortions in the country. While the reform did not make abortion wholly available, it removed the ban under three circumstances: when the pregnant person's life is at risk; if the pregnancy is a result of rape; and if the fetus is deemed "not compatible with life outside the womb."
Even with the reform--upheld as constitutional in August 2017--several barriers remained in place even under these circumstances. For example, doctors and whole hospitals could invoke a right not to perform abortions on the basis of conscience. If they chose to invoke this right, though, the original reform required a stated reason for abstaining and also required those abstaining to register as such in a timely manner. The goal of this rule was to ensure continuity of coverage at a hospital, so that pregnant persons qualifying for an abortion would not be denied one due to lack of access.
Under current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, the requirement of providing a reason for objecting to performing abortions, along with the requirement of assurance of continuity of coverage, were dropped completely.
These rule modifications were issued by the Health Ministry and have international human rights groups concerned that the reproductive health of women and girls will not be protected in Chile.
For example, a person pregnant with a non-viable fetus, or a pre-teen rape victim, might find themselves unable to receive an abortion, because the local hospital does not want to potentially offend politicians or invoke the wrath of anti-abortion groups. As such, the only potential abortion-provider in a given town has chosen "on the basis of conscience" not to provide them and will not be required to justify that decision. Human Rights Watch recommends that
The Chilean government should review and amend the rules to ensure that access to legal abortion is protected. Otherwise it risks letting conscientious objection be used as a pretext to deny important newly recognized rights of women and girls.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
The New York Times Magazine (April 11, 2018): Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis, by Linda Villarosa:
Villarosa of The New York Times Magazine profiles several black mothers and their pregnancy, child birth, and health care stories while exploring the extraordinarily wide disparity in care that black women receive compared to white women.
The U.S. is one of only 12 countries whose maternal mortality rates have actually increased in recent years and now has a mortality rate worse than 25 years ago. Maternal mortality refers to "the death of a woman related to pregnancy or childbirth up to a year after the end of pregnancy." Women of color are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as white women.
Moms are not the only ones facing the consequences of underdeveloped care.
Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel.
In the past, many explanations for the disparity turned to poverty, assuming that it was poor and uneducated black women and their babies that suffered the most. But the crisis does not consider class lines, it turns out. "In fact, a black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with less than an eighth-grade education."
In 2014, Monica Simpson--the executive director of SisterSong, an organization dedicated to reproductive justice for women of color, and a member of advocacy group Black Mamas Matter Alliance-- testified before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. She called on the United States to “eliminate racial disparities in the field of sexual and reproductive health and standardize the data-collection system on maternal and infant deaths in all states to effectively identify and address the causes of disparities in maternal- and infant-mortality rates.” That the United States has not done so is a violation of the international human rights treaty, she says.
This is important for many reasons, one of which is the dramatic effect that society and systemic racism have on a pregnant person's "toxic physiological stress levels." This stress increases the chances for hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and other dangerous pregnancy complications, and it is exacerbated by the pervasive, systemic racial bias embedded in the United States' health care system. Racial bias, discrimination, and the toll it takes on women of color throughout their lives and pregnancy contributes to increased maternal complications across all class and education levels.
Even when controlling for income and education, African-American women had the highest allostatic load scores — an algorithmic measurement of stress-associated body chemicals and their cumulative effect on the body’s systems — higher than white women and black men. ...Though it seemed radical 25 years ago, few in the field now dispute that the black-white disparity in the deaths of babies is related not to the genetics of race but to the lived experience of race in this country.
Community care systems that incorporate the medical and personal support of doulas and midwives have proven to increase black women's chances at a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience.
"One of the most important roles that doulas play is as an advocate in the medical system for their clients." A doula may sometimes be the only person consistently present with the mom-to-be during her birth experience, too. One study of 2,400 women found that "more than a quarter of black women meet their birth attendants for the first time during childbirth, compared with 18 percent of white women."
Doulas “are a critical piece of the puzzle in the crisis of premature birth, infant and maternal mortality in black women.”
Rachel Zaslow, a midwife and doula in Charlottesville, Virginia established Sisters Keeper--a collective of 45 black and Latina doulas in Charlottesville. They offer free birthing services to women of color.
'The doula model is very similar to the community health worker model that’s being used a lot, and successfully, throughout the global South,' Zaslow says. 'For me, when it comes to maternal health, the answer is almost always some form of community health worker.' Since 2015, the Sisters Keeper doulas have attended about 300 births — with no maternal deaths and only one infant death among them.
An analysis of a similar program in New York City showed that, over a five-year period, moms receiving the support of the doula program experience half as many preterm and low-weight babies compared to other community members.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
ReliefWeb (April 6, 2018): Bringing reproductive health care to Syria’s underserved Al-Tabqa, Report by European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations:
Seven months ago, the Syrian city Al-Tabqa was re-taken from the Islamic State. Displaced families are returning to the city in droves, and the population has increased close to 200% over the last year.
Basic critical health care is still lacking in the city, though. Recently, UNFPA supported the development of a new health clinic, which opened in January 2018. 460 women received treatment in the first two weeks of the clinic's operations, including one 30-year-old Syrian woman's delivery of twins.
Under the control of ISIL, contraceptives and other reproductive care were unavailable to women. The new clinic continues to face challenges in its liberation, too, as access to Al-Tabqa for those who wish to return or relocate has been hampered by destroyed infrastructure and lingering landmines. Various agencies are working to improve these conditions, but in the meantime, the Al-Tabqa clinic has managed to become fully-equipped, staffed, and ready to help serve the estimated 6,800 pregnant women in need of care.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Irish Times (Apr. 10, 2018): Pharmacists push to provide free contraceptive scheme, by Pat Leahy & Priscilla Lynch:
Ireland's Minister for Health Simon Harris has already established a women’s sexual health group in his department to formulate proposals on a program of free contraception for women.
The Irish government intends to implement a plan for a “massive increase in the availability of contraceptives – condoms basically”. However, changes to the way that oral contraceptive pills are provided to women would require legislation.
Pharmacists have directly provided the morning-after pill without the need for a prescription since 2011 – a move that was strongly opposed by general practitioners (GPs) in Ireland at the time. It is expected that the new IPU proposals will face similar strong resistance in the GP community.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
NPR News (Apr. 9, 2018): Reproductive Rights Advocates Challenge Dozens Of Mississippi Abortion Restrictions, by Sarah McCamon
Abortion rights advocates with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the Mississippi Center for Justice are challenging dozens of Mississippi's abortion restrictions in federal court. The state's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, recently signed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, banning abortion after 15 weeks gestation.
Last month, in response to a suit from CRR, a judge quickly moved to temporarily block the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi.
Among the restrictions named in the new suit are a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion; a ban on physicians using telemedicine to provide abortion consultation or dispense medication abortions; and rules known as "TRAP" laws that abortion-rights attorneys and the U.S. Supreme Court say place unnecessarily cumbersome health and safety regulations on facilities that provide abortions. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down similar rules in Texas in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The suit's lead plaintiff is Jackson Women's Health Organization, the only clinic providing abortions in Mississippi.
Nancy Northup, CRR President & CEO, said she's hopeful the challenge to Mississippi's longstanding 24-hour-waiting period could set up an opportunity to revisit laws surrounding similar requirements, which have been upheld by the Supreme Court in the past, as in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
John Oliver takes aim at crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion activists 'controlling women's behavior'
The Guardian (Apr. 9, 2018): John Oliver takes aim at anti-abortion activists 'controlling women's behavior', by Guardian staff
John Oliver examined crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) designed to prevent abortions on this past Sunday's episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, criticizing their “disingenuous and predatory” tactics and explaining how their "primary purpose is to talk women out of terminating a pregnancy.”
There are 2,752 CPCs in the United States, compared with 1,671 abortion providers. Many CPCs use the word "choice" in their names and give out advice that is medically inaccurate. They often pretend to be abortion clinics on the exterior to fool women to enter. “Normally, the strategy ‘pretend you’re an abortion clinic’ is not actually a great marketing stunt, although I am pretty sure that Radio Shack would have tried it if they’d thought of it,” Oliver said.
Oliver also discussed how CPCs discourage the use of contraception. There are claims from within CPCs that condoms are ineffective at preventing pregnancy. “For all the lengths that CPCs will go to to prevent abortions, many of them don’t do a key thing that would help that and that’s give women access to birth control,” he said. “The fact is if you want fewer abortions, you should love birth control."
Oliver said that the real goal of CPCs is “controlling women’s sexual behavior”, as many of them are affiliated with religious figures and organizations.
Watch the segment below:
Thursday, April 5, 2018
St. Louis Public Radio (Apr. 4, 2018): Missouri Republicans push several abortion proposals during second half of 2018 session, by Marshall Griffin & Erin Achenbach
The Missouri House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation designed to ban abortions at 20 weeks, relying on the same medically inaccurate "pain-capable" language used to pass similar 20-week bans in other states. The bill passed 117-39 and now goes to the Missouri Senate.
Meanwhile, a House committee is considering four other proposals. They include a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare fetuses at every stage of development to be persons, and in effect abolish abortion in Missouri. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove. This is the third year in a row Moon has sponsored the so-called “personhood” amendment. The measure passed the Missouri House in 2016 but fell short in the Senate.
House Bill 2589, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, comes as a response to a St. Louis Board of Aldermen bill that would call for a buffer zone for health care centers and prohibit certain activities, such as picketing, in front of facilities like Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in St. Louis. Rehder’s bill would prohibit buffer zones.
The House committee also heard a bill that would make it a felony to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without the parental consent already required by Missouri law.
Finally, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, introduced House Bill 1867, which would prohibit certain selective abortions relating to sex, race, or Down syndrome.
No action was taken on the four bills heard in committee Tuesday.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
The Himalayan Times (Apr. 2, 2018): Sex, reproductive health education showing impact, by Himalayan News Service:
Government health centers established to provide sex and reproductive health education to teenagers in Nepal's Sindhuli District (located approximately 130 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu) are proving highly effective.
The Nepali government's Family Health Division (FHD) set up health centers aiming to provide necessary guidance and counselling to teenagers on sex and reproductive health. The FHD established these centers with financial and technical aid from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). As many as 24 health centers provided sex education while 30 secondary schools were developed as information centers. Trained health workers and teachers provide sex education to youths at these centers.
“Initially, the youths seemed reluctant to talk about reproductive health but now they share their curiosities and problems without hesitation,” said assistant health worker Nisha Baral at Sitalpati Health Post in Sindhuli.
UNFPA Sexual and Reproductive Health Program Officer Manju Karmacharya said three health centers in 2015 and two in 2018 were certified for conducting the sex education program effectively.
The Nepali government is preparing to set up at least 13 health centers in each District across the country in the near future. As many as 1,034 health facilities across the country are currently providing sex and reproductive health education.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Amnesty International has launched Body Politics: Criminalization of Sexuality and Reproduction, a new series of tools to empower activists worldwide to challenge criminalization and stand up for their rights.
The criminalization of sexuality and reproduction occurs when consensual sexual and reproductive actions and decisions, or the expression of sexual and gender identities, is restricted or punished. Sometimes this happens through direct regulation, such as criminal bans on abortion. At other times, a range of laws and policies relating to public order or “morality” are used to indirectly police and punish sexual and reproductive choices or gender expression. These laws can easily be abused. For example, criminalizing “adultery” violates human rights and can also put women who have been raped at risk of prosecution for sexual activity outside marriage.
The 'Criminalization' series has three components:
- The Primer provides an overview of how states go about criminalizing key aspects of sexuality and reproduction, human rights principles that can be applied to limit states' use of criminalized approaches and the relevant human rights standards and protections that apply. It also contains seven in-depth issue specific annexes focusing on abortion, same-sex sexual conduct, HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission, pregnancy, adolescent sexuality, sex work and sex outside of marriage.
- The Toolkit provides concrete campaign planning strategies and techniques such as mapping stakeholder participation and power, identifying advocacy targets, and building capacity, among other things.
- The Training Manual is a guide that will enable staff/allies to deliver training for colleagues and external partners moving forward. This Manual is still in the final stages of development and should be released this summer.
To find out more about the 'Criminalization' series, visit Amnesty International.