Monday, October 7, 2019

U.S. joins 19 nations, including Saudi Arabia and Russia: ‘There is no international right to an abortion’

The Washington Post (Sept. 24, 2019): U.S. joins 19 nations, including Saudi Arabia and Russia: ‘There is no international right to an abortion’, by Ariana Eunjung Cha: 

The United States, in a statement delivered to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 23 this year, rejected the use of the term "sexual and reproductive health and rights" throughout U.N. documents and in particular within the international Sustainable Development Goals. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar delivered the statement and emphasized that international instruments should not promote "abortion as a means of family planning." He disputed that there is an international right to an abortion.

The U.S., one among 19 nations who joined in the statement, further emphasized that "[they] only support sex education that appreciates the protective role of the family in this education and does not condone harmful sexual risks for young people."

The Netherlands delivered a responsive joint statement on behalf of 58 countries rejecting the U.S. position and stressing "the need to uphold the full range of sexual and reproductive rights." Country representatives also took to Twitter to object to the U.S. statement, using the hashtag #SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights), explicitly embracing the language the United States aims to erase. 

Many country representatives, along with civil society advocacy groups, underscore that on this issue of abortion the U.S. "align[s] with countries like Saudi Arabia and Sudan with poor human rights records."  They also emphasize the problematic nature of the United States' campaign to persuade other countries to form a new coalition in support of these regressive policies, calling attention to the fact that these efforts put "unfair pressure on poor countries" dependent on U.S. aid.

The Trump administration worked hard leading up the General Assembly to recruit conservative governments to support its efforts to roll back sexual and reproductive health and rights across the board. This campaign could have devastating effects on adults and children who rely on international programs for basic health care, particularly prenatal and postpartum health care. 

The United States-led campaign at the UNGA last week follows a similar effort directed at the World Health Organization (WHO) in which the U.S., Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and several other states campaigned to reject the term "sexual and reproductive rights" from WHO policy, as Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy reports

October 7, 2019 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, International, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dutch Doctor Provides Abortion Pills to U.S. Women, Sues FDA

Fortune (Sept. 19, 2019): "A Doctor Who Prescribes Abortion Pills to U.S. Women Online is Suing the FDA. Is She Breaking the Law?", by Erin Corbett:

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, a physician licensed to practice medicine in Europe, launched the website Aid Access in 2018 in order to meet the growing need for accessible abortion care in the U.S.

Patients seeking to end a pregnancy in its early stages through the use of the medications misoprostol and mifepristone can complete an online consultation form on Aid Access about their pregnancy and general health. Dr. Gomperts prescribes the medication to patients so long as they are "healthy, less than 10 weeks pregnant, and live within an hour's distance of a hospital in case of emergency."

Medical abortion is an FDA-approved method to end a pregnancy, and studies have found that independently managing an abortion using misoprostol and mifepristone pills is both safe and effective.

"There is no evidence that home-based medical abortion is less effective, safe or acceptable than clinic-based medical abortion,” reads one study from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The two pills work in combination to terminate a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks. Together, they are over 96% effective, and using misoprostol on its own is more than 80% effective in the first trimester. 

Dr. Gomperts emphasizes that the science supports the safety of medication abortions, including those done entirely by the women seeking the abortion themselves (in some cases, women may go to a clinic to physically receive the medication; in others, like here, women are prescribed the medications remotely, which are then mailed to them). "All medical abortions are self-managed," though, Dr. Gomperts says. "Women that go to a clinic and get the pill and have their miscarriage at home—it’s exactly the same procedure if they get the pills online.”

In the wake of the confirmation of right-wing, anti-choice Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, along with the slew of extreme state-level restrictions on abortion access in recent years, Dr. Gomperts found that patients reaching out to her were seeking her help not only because they wanted an abortion but because they didn't know where else to get help or even information on any local health services available to them.

Dr. Gomperts received inquiries from over 40,000 women between March 2018 and August 2019. She prescribed the two abortion medications to just over 7,000 of those persons. The majority of the requests came from women living in abortion-hostile states with strict laws, like Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Dr. Gomperts has consulted with women in all 50 states.

While several states have laws that criminalize any self-managed abortions, all of these statutes "pre-date Roe, likely making them unconstitutional," Erin Corbett, author of the Fortune article, says. They've been applied against pregnant persons nonetheless. 

On September 9th, Dr. Gomperts and her attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court in Idaho against the FDA and other federal officials, claiming that they illegally confiscated "between three and 10 'individual doses of misoprostol and mifepristone' that Dr. Gomperts had prescribed to patients since March." 

The FDA claims that her practice "'poses an inherent risk to consumers who purchase'" these medications.

Dr. Gomperts asserts several claims for relief under both the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. Prosecuting Dr. Gomperts or her patients would violate their rights to liberty, privacy, and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment, the lawsuit claims.

October 7, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, International, Medical News, Politics, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Nearly seven percent of U.S. women say first sexual experience was forced

Sept. 16, 2019 (AP News): Many U.S. women say first sexual experience was forced in teens, by Lindsey Tanner: 

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that "the first sexual experience for 1 in 16 U.S. women was forced or coerced intercourse in their early teens"--and often perpetrated by persons nearly a decade senior to the survivors.

The national survey conducted for the study did not use the term rape when asking participants about forced sexual experiences but identified a first sexual intercourse experience as "involuntary." Almost half of the participants who reported involuntary intercourse were physically held down during the experience, while just over half of the same respondents described being "verbally pressured to have sex against their will." 

The lead author of the study, Dr. Laura Hawks, affirms that “any sexual encounter (with penetration) that occurs against somebody’s will is rape. If somebody is verbally pressured into having sex, it’s just as much rape."

The study goes on to show that persons whose first sexual intercourse experiences amounted to rape reported "fair or poor health" twice as often as other women. The same women also "had more sex partners, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and more reproductive health problems including pelvic pain and menstrual irregularities than women whose first sexual experience wasn’t forced."

The new study adds to the findings of prior research that identified a range of long-term effects of sexual assault, including "social isolation, feelings of powerlessness, stigmatization, poor self-image and risky behavior, which all may increase risks for depression and other mental health problems"

An editorial in this issue of the Journal "notes that the study lacks information on women’s health and any abuse before their first sexual encounter." It also doesn't include data on sexual violence after the women's first encounters, which, the editorial notes, may further "contribute to health problems."

The Journal calls for further research to fully understand and address the "range and consequences," particularly as related to long-term health outcomes, of sexual assault on survivors. 

Sex education specialists have responded emphasizing the need for inclusive education in U.S. schools that teaches children about consent among other healthy sexual practices. 

September 19, 2019 in Culture, Medical News, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Sexual Assault, Sexuality Education, Teenagers and Children, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Austin City Budget Includes Funding for Women to Overcome Barriers to Abortion Access

September 10, 2019 (NBC News): It just got a Little Easier for Low-Income Women in Texas City to Access Abortion Care, by Adam Edelman:

Last week, City Counsel members in Austin, Texas voted to include funding for low-income women to access abortion. This creative measure supports abortion access through funding services like travel to and from abortion clinics, lodging, and child care for women who need abortion procedures.

A Texas state bill enacted earlier this year, SB22, bans any Texas municipality from allocating public funding to groups that provide abortion care. However, the City Counsel's funding does not actually fund the procedure, sidestepping the restrictive legislation. 

'Advocates of the funding told NBC News it would not violate any of Texas’ restrictive abortion laws. Rather, they explained, the bill would merely help low-income women who need abortion care navigate a complicated landscape.'

Current Texas law imposes a number of barriers that make obtaining an abortion more time consuming and costly. Texas law bans abortion after 20 weeks post fertilization and requires pregnant women in Texas to visit an abortion clinic twice, first to undergo a sonogram and then, after a 24 hour wait,  to actually have the procedure. Additionally, all such costs must be paid out of pocket, as Texas law also prohibits private insurance from covering abortion care. The Austin law helps women pay some of the additional costs imposed on them by Texas law.

New York City Council recently approved a similar funding measure that allocated $250,000 to fund abortions for poor women who live in, or have traveled to New York City from the procedure. 

Advocates of the Austin measure hope that this action can provide an example for blue cities in red states to creatively advance abortion rights in their own cities. 

September 17, 2019 in Abortion, Current Affairs, Poverty, Pro-Choice Movement, State and Local News, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Telemedicine Abortion is Safe

July 23, 2019 (Rewire.News): Telemedicine Abortion is Safe, No Matter What Anti-Choice Lawmakers Claim, by Auditi Guha: 

A study released July 9 finds that outcomes for medication-driven abortion through telemedicine are comparable in-person medication abortion.

The results support the importance of telemedicine for reproductive health and safety particularly for those who cannot easily reach abortion clinics due to oppressively-restrictive anti-choice legislation. 

Medication abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly twenty years and is supported by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood. The procedure uses a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol pills and the telemedicine aspect helps clinicians have a wider reach in authorizing and supervising the process through remote video conferencing.

Telemedicine medication abortions have often been provided in clinics where the licensed clinicians video conference in while the patient is in clinic with nurses or other professionals, but direct-to-patient telemedicine abortion services are growing. Most patients requesting these services live in abortion-hostile states where they cannot easily reach a clinic at all.

The anti-choice movement has responded by working to restrict access to telemedicine abortion as well as in-clinic abortion services. Legal bans or restrictions currently exist in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Utah. 

The recent study, though, "indicates that telemedicine abortion is 'a safe and effective way of ending an early pregnancy, with very rare complications' and can provide the same quality of health care patients receive at a health center," according to Dr. Julia Kohn, national director of research at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the lead author of the study.

Kohn further says: "In many ways, this study does reaffirm what we already know: Medication abortion via telemedicine is safe and effective at ending an early pregnancy."

July 25, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Science, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Vaginal exams on unconscious, non-consenting patients are legal in 42 states

Jun. 26, 2019 (Vice): Med Students Are Doing Vaginal Exams on Unconscious, Non-Consenting Patients, by Hannah Harris Green: 

For decades, medical students around the country have been expected to perform pelvic exams on unconscious women--not for the patient's benefit but solely for the student's experience. Sometimes these exams are performed multiple times by different students on the same patient. The exams involve a student inserting "two gloved fingers into the patient’s vagina and [placing] one hand on her pelvis in order to feel the uterus and ovaries." This patient is never asked for consent prior to the procedure nor is she informed of the exam afterward.

One former student--now a pediatrician in Baltimore, Maryland--learned of these procedures during his OB/GYN rotation while studying at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in the 1990s. He refused to participate, joining in a movement to ban the practice. Ari Silver-Isenstadt took a year out of his medical studies to study the ethical implications of this practice at Penn's School of Education. He subsequently published a study in 2003 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that found that over 90 percent of students at the five Pennsylvania medical schools he had focused on had performed vaginal exams on non-consenting, unconscious patients. He noted that students' initial discomfort with the procedure quickly dissipated as it became a regular part of their rotations. 

California became the first state to ban these invasive exams in 2003, the same year of Silver-Isenstadt's study. Since then, Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah, and Maryland have followed suit. Additional states that have introduced similar legislation this year include Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Washington, and Texas. No federal legislation yet addresses the issue. 

Some medical schools have also banned the practice institutionally as well--like Harvard--but others, including Duke University, consistently ask their medical students to perform pelvic exams sans consent throughout their education. 

While the procedure invades the privacy of any patient, consequences can be particularly severe for patients with a history of sexual trauma who either find out a pelvic exam was performed on them while unconscious or else wake up during the produce, as did Ashely Weitz in 2007.

Weitz said testifying about her experience in support of Utah's law in February was nerve-racking, especially because she expected there to be other women at the hearing at the state house with similar experiences, but she was the only one. Given the nature of these exams, people don’t know if it's happened to them. She said it was “a very healing practice to say 'this shouldn't happen to me, it shouldn't be happening in the way that it is happening in an institution.'” But there are still parts of the incident that she hasn’t recovered from. “It changed the way that I sought and received medical care,” she said. “I was, you know, thereafter very certain that I was never going to be sedated or unconscious in a manner that would have allowed that situation to happen again. So it was in itself very traumatizing.”

Utah's ban on unconscious pelvic exams was signed into law in March of this year. It requires both medical students and doctors to get explicit consent to perform such exams on anesthetized women. A law professor at the University of Illinois, Robin Fretwell Wilson, credited Weitz's testimony as the primary driving force behind the state legislation. 

Wilson herself advocates for requiring specific consent for any pelvic exams. While opponents to legislation requiring consent argue that general consent forms signed upon entering a teaching hospital already cover these exams, Wilson and other advocates for patient protections assert that it is ethically wrong to practice procedures that are of no benefit to the patient without direct consent.

Many advocates, including Weitz, connect the growing opposition to these vaginal exams to the rising tide of the #MeToo movement in recent years. "The #MeToo movement has helped people like Weitz better understand that the violations they endure are part of a wider cultural problem."

Wilson acknowledges that even 10 or 15 years ago, the attitude toward this practice was completely different. "At the time, medical school faculty 'were more than willing to stand their ground and say, "not only do we do it, but the patients in our hospitals have a duty to participate."' . . .  15 years ago, many schools 'did not see it as an issue.'"

Advocates of legal regulations requiring patient consent, though, still fear that enforcement of the new laws will be difficult. "In order for authorities to find out, students would need to both be aware of the law and willing to report wrongdoing by their supervisors, so [Silver-Isenstadt is] hoping the culture is what will ultimately change."

July 9, 2019 in Culture, Medical News, Miscellaneous, Scholarship and Research, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Missouri’s lone abortion clinic must remain open for now

Jun. 10, 2019 (Politico): Judge says Missouri’s lone abortion clinic must remain open for now, by Rachana Pradhan: 

On Monday, a judge blocked Missouri's attempts to close its last remaining abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood, which operates the clinic, has struggled against state officials' attempts to shutter the clinic based on claims of violations, which jeopardize its licensing.

Judge Michael Stelzer had previously granted the Planned Parenthood clinic reprieve from the states' attempts to deny license renewal upon the clinic's license lapse in May, and Stelzer has now directed Missouri health officials to make a decision as to whether to renew the clinic's license by June 21.

Planned Parenthood officials attest that the licensing conditions were essentially pretextual and "accused state officials of orchestrating a politically motivated probe to stamp out abortion." Last month, Missouri lawmakers banned almost all abortions beyond week eight of a pregnancy.  

Missouri is just one of six U.S. states that have only one clinic providing abortions.

June 13, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Canada to invest in women’s and girls’ health, also recognizes genocide of Indigenous women

Jun. 4, 2019 (Quartz): Canada will invest $1 billion globally in women's and girls' health every year, by Annabelle  Timsit:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada's new commitment to invest over one billion dollars annually in women's and girls' health. The funding will in large part benefit sexual and reproductive health in the face of growing threats around the world to women's rights, including the right to abortion. 

This funding is an increase from Canada's prior years' commitments and comes with increased focus on supporting "female entrepreneurs, indigenous women, and LGBTQ people."

Allocating funding, among other socio-political resources, to the protection of Indigenous women in particular is especially critical in light of the recent report of the Canadian national inquiry regarding mass killings and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls throughout Canada. (See The New York Times (Jun. 3, 2019), by Ian Austen and Dan Bilefsky).

The three-year inquiry's final report labeled the systemic violence suffered  by the Indigenous populations in Canada "a race-based genocide." It also included over 200 recommendations to implement systemic changes, like reforming police practices and the criminal justice system overall, as well as expansion of Indigenous women's shelters and empowering Indigenous persons to serve on civilian boards overseeing civil services. In addition, the report's authors call for the elevation of Indigenous languages to official languages of Canada, alongside English and French. 

The inquiry, long overdue in the face of pervasive, violent colonialism, was prompted in 2014 when Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation was found dead in the Manitoba Red River, wrapped in a plastic bag and weighed down with 25 pounds of rocks. The main suspect in her murder was acquitted. 

June 7, 2019 in International, Miscellaneous, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Irish ban on funding abortion services in developing world to be lifted

The Irish Times (Mar. 4, 2019): Irish ban on funding abortion services in developing world to be lifted, by Pat Leahy: 

As a result of the 2018 repeal of Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion, Irish foreign humanitarian and development policy is shifting, too. Previously, Irish foreign aid money was generally prohibited from being used to fund abortion services, because such medical and reproductive health programmes were contrary to Irish law. 

Irish Aid, the development aid programme of Ireland's government, is now launching a new initiative on "sexual and reproductive health and rights." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week launched its new policy on development aid: "A Better World." The policy has four priorities, including prioritizing gender equality, reducing humanitarian need, climate action, and strengthening governance. The reconsiderations of reproductive health aid are expected to flow from this new policy. 

The main focus of Irish Aid's programmes lies in sub-Saharan Africa, where Ireland has long-standing assistance programs in eight countries. Irish Aid also has established programming in Vietnam, South Africa, and Palestine, among other nations.

The prior Irish policy of withholding funding for abortion services echos the Trump administration's global gag rule pertaining to foreign aid. Programs and policies that police the reproductive health services offered in foreign nations have a significant, negative impact in countries aiming to slow population growth and provide comprehensive health care and education to women and girls. 

March 9, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

An 11-Year-Old in Argentina Was Raped. A Hospital Denied Her an Abortion.

The New York Times (Mar. 1, 2019): An 11-Year-Old in Argentina Was Raped. A Hospital Denied Her an Abortion, by Daniel Politi: 

Despite laws in Argentina saying that pregnant people may seek abortions in the case of rape (one of the only instances in which abortion is legal in the country), an 11-year-old rape survivor was denied the abortion she requested and instead forced into a C-section delivery. 

The child was reportedly raped by her grandmother's boyfriend. She discovered her pregnancy at 19 weeks after going to the hospital complaining of severe stomachaches. Both the child and her mother pushed for her to receive the abortion, but doctors administered drugs without consent to hasten the development of the fetus so that she could deliver instead (the doctors told her that they were giving her "vitamins"). 

Fernanda Marchese is the executive director of Human Rights and Social Studies Lawyers of Northeastern Argentina, which is representing Lucía (a pseudonym) and her family. Marchese reports that the hospital permitted anti-abortion activists to enter Lucía’s hospital room, "where they urged her to have the baby, warning that she otherwise would never get to be a mother."

"Reproductive rights groups filed emergency lawsuits that led to a court order instructing the hospital to carry out an abortion at once." The doctors still refused, citing conscientious objections. 

Private sector doctors Cecilia Ousset and José Gigena agreed to conduct the abortion, but because Lucía’s pregnancy was so far along, they decided they had no choice but perform a C-section. Dr. Ousset identified that Lucía’s life was at risk throughout the ordeal in a phone interview with the New York Times. Lucía is now healthy and should be discharged soon. 

Genetic material from the umbilical cord will be studied and possibly used to prosecute the man who is alleged to have raped Lucía. He has already been arrested. 

Although the case has gained notoriety, many say it reflects a reality in parts of Argentina. “In the north of Argentina,” Dr. Ousset said, “there are lots of Lucías and there are lots of professionals who turn their back on them.”

March 5, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Media, International, Medical News, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Black History Legacy: Honoring The Black Women Who Birthed Our Movements

Essence (Feb. 20, 2018): Black History Legacy: Honoring The Black Women Who Birthed Our Movements, by Cameron Glover:

"[N]aming the Black women who have metaphorically given birth to the movements that are so vital to social justice and our collective well-being is a necessary step toward truly celebrating Black excellence."

Here is a small reminder of important Black women and their organizations that have and are trailblazing the way toward reproductive justice:

SisterSong, a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, coined the term "reproductive justice" to specifically address the disparities in reproductive health care women of color face.

Defining reproductive justice as "the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities," SisterSong has worked in the Southern United States to fight states’ invasive abortion bill laws, which further restrict access to abortions. But the group has also worked to help communities of color get greater access to resources, education for improved reproductive health, and support for the personal choice to start a family or end a pregnancy. 

The Combahee River Collective.

The Combahee River Collective, a Black lesbian feminist group based in Boston from 1974-1980, highlighted mainstream feminism's problem with inclusivity. The Collective's legacy lives on today calling feminists to intersectionality and inclusivity.

Audre Lorde established the importance of "self-care."

Identified by Lorde as a method of self-preservation and as "an act of political warfare," Lorde's self-care is touted by activists fighting for reproductive rights and justice today as an essential element to centering their own well-being in the midst of the ongoing political fight.

Tarana Burke started the Me Too Movement many years before #metoo became a mainstream hashtag. 

The movement began as a way to increase awareness of sexual violence against Black women and girls. While the movement has grown into a larger conversation and is now often incorrectly credited to the White women who helped amplify the national conversation on sexual harassment and assault, it's important to know that the movement's origin lies with Tarana Burke, a Black woman empowering Black women. "This erasure is all too common for Black women, and it makes the push for centering and saying their names alongside the work they do both necessary and non-negotiable."

From SisterSong to the Combahee River Collective, from Audre Lorde to Tarana Burke, we must ensure that the Black women behind the movements that are vital to our understanding of sexuality and liberation are cited and credited. But the work is not done. We also need to make sure that publicly crediting these Black women becomes routine because, in light of the violence and discrimination that Black women face, these movements are some of the few ways that they will gain public acceptance. It’s time that we move Black women from behind the curtains and into the spotlight, celebrating them for their commitment to change and to centering those that need change most.

February 21, 2019 in Culture, Politics, Race & Reproduction, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 9, 2019

In Nigeria, Trump administration policies bite hard

Devex (Feb. 5, 2019): In Nigeria, Trump administration policies bite hard, by Paul Adepoju: 

Trump's policies limiting reproductive rights and funding for reproductive health and education services continue to wreak havoc on foreign initiatives aimed at promoting family planning, slowing population growth, and educating girls and women.

Nigerian hospitals and NGOs are facing severe shortages of reproductive health supplies since Trump both cut funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and implemented the "global gag rule," withdrawing funding from any agency that offers abortion-related education or services. 

Nigeria, a middle-income country facing a population boom, lost over 60% of its funding for family planning supplies and services in the year after Trump pulled UNFPA funding. "In 2016, when UNFPA got its last support from the U.S. government, it was able to spend $15,444,880 on family planning in Nigeria. In 2017, it spent just $6,132,632."

Trump justified these funding cuts by promulgating theories that the UNFPA cooperated with coercive abortions and involuntary sterilization, which the UNFPA categorically denies and is readily backed up by multiple human rights organizations.

The rate of contraceptive usage in Nigeria is already very low, and the African country also faces one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. 

Several organizations--including Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network--are on-the-ground in Nigeria working to educate women and provide safe and reliable access to health care to shift these statistics. Their work, though, has been severely limited by the loss of funding as a result of U.S. policies under the Trump administration. 

Erin Williams, program officer for grantmaking and international partnerships at the International Women's Health Coalition, told Devex: 

As a result [of these policies], Nigerian health services will continue to fragment, deteriorate, and decrease, increasing the burden on vulnerable women and girls in search of comprehensive and quality health care. More women will look for contraceptive and pregnancy alternatives outside the medical and legal system.

While much of the justification for pulling U.S. funding relies on anti-abortion ideology, the implications of the policies are much farther-reaching than "just" abortion. Nigeria has slowed in its ability to address maternal health needs generally, including instances of gender-based violence, as well in its ability to address wide-reaching disease concerns like the spread of malaria and tuberculosis. Furthermore, the policy-shift has actually led to increased numbers of abortions throughout Sub-Saharan Africa in the countries hit hardest by the loss of funding. 

Congress this week is set to introduce the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, which would repeal the global gag rule permanently and help to ensure consistent reproductive health care around the world. It is unlikely to be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, however, or to be signed by Trump. 

February 9, 2019 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Contraception, Current Affairs, International, Medical News, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, President/Executive Branch, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 8, 2019

NY’s Reproductive Health Act is Not Radical; It Simply Recognizes that the Lives and Dignity of Pregnant People Count Too

NY’s Reproductive Health Act is Not Radical; It Simply Recognizes that the Lives and Dignity of Pregnant People Count Too (Feb. 7, 2019), by Cynthia Soohoo:

Not surprisingly, President Trump’s attack on New York’s Reproductive Health Act during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address blatantly mischaracterized the RHA. But it also underscores a glaring gap in anti-abortion advocates’ pro-life views -- the right to life and dignity of people who are pregnant.

The RHA continues to recognize a state interest in fetal life and prohibits abortions after 24 weeks in almost all circumstances. However, the law also recognizes that in some situations, denying a pregnant person the ability to end a pregnancy imposes serious and irreparable harm on her, including situations where the pregnancy endangers her life and health. And in those situations, the state cannot force the pregnant woman to continue the pregnancy against her will. This is consistent with current Supreme Court jurisprudence and international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee made this explicit in a recent General Comment clarifying that while states can regulate abortions, they should not do so in a manner that violates the right to life of the pregnant person or her fundamental human rights.

The RHA does no more than protect the human rights of pregnant people. The law only allows abortions post-24 weeks in two situations. First, abortions are allowed where the fetus will not survive outside of the womb. The RHA recognizes that a woman should not be forced to continue what was often a wanted pregnancy -- knowing that the fetus will not survive -- against her will. In such cases, the state’s interest in protecting a viable fetus is not at issue, and human rights experts have held that denying a woman access to an abortion in these circumstances is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  

Second, the RHA allows a woman to have an abortion where continuing the pregnancy endangers her life or health. Some women may choose to continue pregnancies in these circumstances. But the RHA acknowledges that the pregnant person must be allowed to make her own choice taking into account the risk that she faces and the impact her death or disability would have on her family and community.

In both situations covered by the RHA, human rights experts have held that state denial of an abortion violates the human rights of the pregnant person. In fact, concern over state prohibition of abortions in those circumstances led UN human rights experts to write to the U.S. to encourage passage of laws like the Reproductive Health Act. This is not a radical position. It is merely the recognition of the value of the life and dignity of pregnant people. The failure of critics of the RHA to understand this is a glaring gap in their “pro-life” views.

February 8, 2019 in Abortion, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, President/Executive Branch, Reproductive Health & Safety, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Restrictions

The New York Times (Feb. 7, 2018): Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Restrictions, by Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court blocked the Louisiana admitting-privileges law that Justice Alito issued a stay for just last week in June Medical Services v. Gee

The law would have effectively limited the abortion providers in the state of Louisiana to one, by requiring such providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Many hospitals either would not extend such privileges or were not in the required 30-mile radius of the abortion-providing clinics at risk under the law. While initially passed in 2014, the Louisiana law has been entangled in lawsuits ever since. SCOTUS struck down a similar statute in Texas in 2016 in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt

The Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the Louisiana law, but it may ultimately decide to take the case for full review.  This would allow the Court to reconsider the clarification provided by Hellerstedt on the "undue burden" standard, initially implemented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). This standard says that legislation that has either the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the way of a pregnant person seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion creates an undue burden on them, and is therefore unconstitutional. Medically unnecessary laws that offer minimal, if any, health benefits to pregnant persons while increasing their obstacles to seeking an abortion constitute "undue burdens."

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing.

February 8, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Woman who bore rapist’s baby faces 20 years in El Salvador jail

The Guardian (Nov. 12, 2018): Woman who bore rapist’s baby faces 20 years in El Salvador jail, by Nina Lakhani: 

In the wake of fetal personhood, or similar, ballot measures being proposed and passed throughout the U.S., it's important to look to other countries where abortion is criminalized to see the effects of living in a world where abortion and those who seek or perform them are punished.

A survivor of habitual sexual abuse by her grandfather has been imprisoned in El Salvador since April 2017 on charges of attempted murder. Last April, Imelda Cortez, then 20-years-old, gave birth to a child fathered by her rapist.  She experienced intense pain and bleeding before the birth, which caused her mother to bring her to the hospital. The doctors there suspected an attempted abortion and called the police. The baby was born alive and well, but Imelda has never been able to hold her, as she's been in custody since her time in the hospital last year. 

Authorities conducted a paternity test, which confirmed Imelda's claims of rape, yet her grandfather has not been charged with any crime. Imelda's criminal trial began this week and a decision from a three judge panel is expected next week. 

Abortion is illegal in all circumstances--no exceptions--in El Salvador. The strict ban has led to severe persecution of pregnant people throughout the country, often most heavily affecting impoverished, rural-living people. Most people accused of abortion simply experienced a pregnancy complication, including miscarriage and stillbirth.

This pattern of prosecutions targeting a particular demographic suggests a discriminatory state policy which violates multiple human rights, according to Paula Avila-Guillen, director of Latin America Initiatives at the New York based Women’s Equality Centre. Cortez’s case is a stark illustration of how the law criminalises victims.

Abortion has been criminalized in El Salvador for 21 years. While a bill was drafted nearly two years ago--with public and medical support--aiming to reform the system and relax the ban to allow the option of abortion at least in certain cases (for example, rape, human trafficking, an unviable fetus, or threat to a pregnant person's life), it remains stuck in committee and is not expected to make it to vote. 

 

November 13, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Courts, International, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 19, 2018

International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Speaks Out on Violence Against Women

FIGO.org (Oct. 16, 2018): International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Speaks Out on Violence Against Women:

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Fédération Internationale de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique - FIGO) is a global organization that represents national societies of obstetricians and gynecologists. FIGO is meeting for their XXII World Congress in Rio de Janeiro this week. Early in the week FIGO announced, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), a Global Declaration on Violence Against Women, citing stark statistics of the violence women suffer and the wide-reaching effects of such harm, including on reproductive health and safety. 

The organizations found that 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Most of this violence is committed by intimate partners. Circumstances of unrest, armed conflict, and displacement exacerbate the statistics. Women in South Sudan, for example, experience intimate partner violence at a rate double the global average. 

This violence has many health impacts--some permanent--including unwanted pregnancy, serious injury, sexually transmitted infections, chronic pain, gynecologic problems, and fistula, among others.
 
WHO estimated that women who have been physically or sexually abused by a partner are 16% more likely to have a low-birth-weight baby.They are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and, 1.5 times more likely to acquire an STI, and in some regions, HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence.
 
Health services are critical for supporting survivors to heal, recover and thrive. If accessed in time, health services can prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV, STIs, following rape. Unfortunately, these services are often not available and survivors lack access to basic, lifesaving care.

The Declaration on Violence Against Women announces members' dedication to, among other things, promoting women's health and rights, including sexual and reproductive rights. It announces concern over the "global public health problem" of violence against women and how it affects women physically, mentally, and sexually as well as how the violence affects the children of surviving women.

The Declaration concludes with several calls to action, urging delegates' governments to ratify CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and ensure the treaty's thorough implementation. It also calls for strengthened health systems, better allocation of budgets and resources to prevent and respond to violence, and the promotion of widely-available health services. The Declaration further advises obstetricians and gynecologists to "advocate for strategies to address violence against women in their communities, towns, cities or countries and [to] collaborate with civil society and voluntary organizations, particularly women’s health and rights organizations, which advocate for women affected by violence"

The World Congress continues to meet through the end of this week. 

 

October 19, 2018 in Conferences and Symposia, Culture, International, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh

Rewire.News (Sept. 25, 2018): Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh, by Katelyn Burns: 

Even before last week's hearing for Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, indigenous groups in Alaska have been voicing their opposition to the Judge's confirmation. 

Alaskan sexual assault survivors--many of whom are Natives--are calling on Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to vote "no" on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination this week. Activists have also been protesting at Senator Dan Sullivan's office (R-AK), however, unlike Senator Murkowski, he announced his support for Kavanaugh shortly after the nomination in July. 

Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in Native American communities. Natives, including Alaskan women, suffer from rape and sexual assault in staggeringly disproportionate numbers with little access to justice. 

"According to the 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey, 50 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both." Furthermore, 97 percent of Native Alaskan sexual assault survivors suffered the violence at the hands of non-Native perpetrators. Notably, tribal justice systems cannot prosecute non-Natives for sexual assault.

Survivors are also speaking out in defense of Dr. Ford's delay in coming out publicly with her allegations. “Most of the time we would be blamed for being provocative in some way. So I can understand why someone would wait years to bring up a sexual assault," said one Alaskan Native survivor. 

Native communities also oppose Kavanaugh's nomination on his views of Native rights generally and his misunderstanding of tribal history and government systems. 

October 2, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Medical News, Politics, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?

Daily Intelligencer (Sept. 20, 2018): Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?, by Ed Kilgore:

Kilgore writes for New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer responding in part to conservative Ross Douthat's New York Times piece claiming that the current allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are harmful to the "pro-life" movement. 

Kilgore says that despite the arguments of many anti-abortion activists that their purported moral high ground turns on fetal personhood or the rights of the unborn, "the prevailing sentiment among abortion rights activists is that the anti-abortion movement is just applied misogyny." 

Anti-abortion work generally is rooted in a position that elevates the patriarchy and promotes "fear of women's sexuality and autonomy."

Kilgore highlights that Douthat interestingly links anti-abortion work with anti-feminism. Douthat is concerned that confirming Kavanaugh amidst the #metoo movement generally and his allegations of sexual assault specifically might "cement a perception that’s fatal to the pro-life movement’s larger purposes — the perception that you can’t be pro-woman and pro-life."

Even if many Republicans (in particular, Republican women) have identified with the labels pro-woman and pro-life, there is no longer any Republican party-wide commitment to the pro-woman side of the pairing, Kilgore says. 

Ross Douthat is right to worry that it’s getting harder every day to disassociate pro-life from anti-woman views. It’s certainly getting harder for me to believe that anti-abortion activists care more about saving embryos than about shackling women.

September 21, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Women--and Robust Reproductive Rights--Are Key to Solving Climate Crisis

Sierra (Sept. 18, 2018): Climate Activists Say Women Are Key to Solving the Climate Crisis, by Wendy Becktold: 

Last week, San Francisco hosted the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). The three-day conference brought together heads of state, policy makers, scientists, and leaders from civil society to discuss clean energy and averting catastrophic climate change. One of the recurring topics focused on the necessity of investing in women's rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, in combating climate crises. 

Decades of research indicate that investing in women's rights can dramatically contribute to addressing both development and climate challenges around the globe. In particular, access to education and robust reproductive rights strengthens opportunities for women worldwide. Supporting women is proven to translate to more sustainable development including the promotion of clean energy over fossil fuels.

"Access to reproductive health services is...key to reducing pressure on natural resources." A lack of access to contraception, for example, leads to many millions of unplanned pregnancies, which in turn can prevent women from creating the productive and sustainable systems they would otherwise be able to contribute to. Better education can also reduce birth rates and further improve the livelihood of women around the world.

In poorer parts of the world, women produce 60-80 percent of food crops. Providing women with better education and resources such as access to small business loans (like their male counterparts often have) could could reduce the number of people who go hungry around the world by 150 million. 

Many summit conversations at the conference, in addition to countless side events, highlighted the shared frustrations of women around the world.

Some climate activists found the summit’s emphasis on high tech solutions exasperating. 'There’s often a focus on techno fixes,' said Burns [of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization], 'when for years, we’ve been saying that investing in women’s human rights is how we can address climate change. There is still this huge disconnect between the rhetoric and the solutions that are coming from feminists and frontline voices.'

"Women are also disproportionately affected by climate change," in part because global warming reaches the impoverished first and most people living in poverty are women. 

The conversations at the GCAS highlighted how integral reproductive rights and support of women's opportunities are to innumerable issues. The ripple-effect of guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights, the research shows, extends far past simply being able to plan a pregnancy; such support builds up communities around the globe, reduces poverty, and has the power to fight behemoth challenges like climate change as well. 

September 19, 2018 in Conferences and Symposia, Contraception, International, Miscellaneous, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Planned Parenthood’s Next President: An Immigrant Doctor of Color Who Grew Up on Medicaid

Slate (Sept. 12, 2018): Planned Parenthood’s Next President: An Immigrant Doctor of Color Who Grew Up on Medicaid, by Christina Cauterucci:

Planned Parenthood announced in September that its new president, Leana Wen, will start in November. Wen currently serves as Baltimore's health commissioner and is also an emergency room physician. She will be the second doctor to head the organization and the first one to do so in 50 years.

"In both her career and her lived experience, Wen is a near-perfect embodiment of the organization’s core concerns, client base, and trajectory." Wen left China for the United States as a political asylum-seeker when she was eight years old. Growing up in poverty in California, she relied on Medicaid and Planned Parenthood for her health care, and gave back as a medical student by volunteering with Planned Parenthood as well. 

In her current role as health commissioner of Baltimore, Wen has contributed both to reducing infant mortality and to fighting against disparate racial treatment in the health care system. 

After 10 years of leadership focusing on the political side of the organization under Cecile Richards, Wen is expected to emphasize the legitimacy of the medical branch of Planned Parenthood while also continuing to bolster PP's political activism. 

While the majority of Americans support Planned Parenthood, it's often considered a political body and branch of the Democratic party above all else. "Wen will be well-positioned to make the medical case for practices like telemedicine abortions," among other services Planned Parenthood offers and causes it supports. 

That Planned Parenthood chose as its next leader a young immigrant woman of color who grew up on Medicaid and has worked to combat health inequities is a testament to the organization’s semi-recent rebranding as one committed to not only reproductive choice but reproductive justice, an ethos that prioritizes equal access to care and includes related issues like mass incarceration and poverty. The organization came under fire in 2014 when several reproductive justice advocacy groups accused it of engaging in “the co-optation and erasure” of work done by women of color in the field by claiming the mantle of reproductive justice without crediting those who’d pioneered the framework. It has been working to shake that reputation ever since.

In hiring Wen, the organization seems to hope to cement their relevancy in the reproductive justice world, re-focusing on intersectionality in the movement as well as making the case for the medical necessity of Planned Parenthood in a country facing growing threats to reproductive rights. 

September 14, 2018 in Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)