Abortion Rights, anti-abortion, Government Policy, pro-choice, reproductive rights, Uncategorized

New Wisconsin Law essentially Bans Medical Abortions

            A while back, we discussed the use of telemedicine to make non-surgical abortions more readily available to women in rural areas where getting to an abortion facility may be more difficult. The practice is only available in a handful of places and has been proven to be a safe method of abortion care. Patients have an in person examination with a nurse and then an audio/visual exam by a doctor via webcam who would then watch the patient self-administer the medication, i.e.- take a pill.

            In spite of its rarity, and safety, lawmakers all over the U.S.have used it as yet another way to attack abortion rights. Last year at least 5 states banned the procedure and this year Wisconsinis jumping on board. The Wisconsin legislature recently passed the “Coercive and Webcam Abortion Prevention Act” and Governor Walker signed it into law. The title of the law, at least the “coercive” part seems benign, helpful even. Really, no one wants to see women having abortions because they were coerced into by threatening partners or parents. We want women to make the choice for themselves so tackling “coerced abortions” seems like a good idea, but the title of the law is incredibly misleading.

            What the law actually does is require cumbersome procedures for women seeking medication abortions and their doctors. According to RH Reality Check the Wisconsin Medical Society, which usually refrains from commenting on abortion policy, has vocally opposed the law because of the drastic way in which it inserts the desires of the legislature in front of providing safe medical care. The law requires not one, not two but three separate appointments with the same doctor to have an abortion. The woman MUST see the same doctor for her follow up care or the doctor could be fined or even imprisoned. Even though it is perfectly safe and sometimes easier for a woman to see her primary doctor for the follow up care, she is required to see the same doctor who provided her abortion. If she cannot get the time off work or find a babysitter or for whatever reason can’t get back to that doctor, the doctor could go to jail. This is directly punishing doctors for something they have no real control over.

            The new law is so severe that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has decided there is no way for them to continue to offer medication abortions to their patients without risk to their doctors forcing them to stop offering this service. Prior to this approximate ¼ of abortions in the state were done using a medication abortion. Many women prefer this option because it doesn’t require surgery and they appreciate the ability and privacy to pass the pregnancy at home. Thanks to anti-choice politicians, women in Wisconsin will no longer have that choice.

Abortion, Abortion Rights, anti-abortion, pro-choice, reproductive rights

PRENDA’s Even Darker side

Remember the ridiculous Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act? Well, thanks to the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the Republicans got the bill passed out of committee and out to a general vote. During committee hearings on the bill Democrats tried to get numerous amendments passed including amendments to push back the effective date and address discrimination of pregnant women. They were unable to get most of the proposed amendments included. The only one they were successful in getting passed was an amendment to change the name to simply the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.

Perhaps the best thing about PRENDA passing out of committee is the fact that with its passing new information is being reported about the insidious nature of the bill. After the website Jezebel ran an article about the bill passing committee it seems one of their more astute readers noticed something in the bill that had so far been left unaddressed.

The bill includes language that will allow someone other than the pregnant person to decide if an abortion is the right decision for them. Specifically it allows for the parent of a minor or the “father” of the fetus to seek civil recourse against a doctor who performs an abortion based on sex or race. According to Jezebel this means that the bill “would theoretically allow a male partner or an underage woman’s parents to file an injunction that would force a woman to remain pregnant by charging her with being motivated to abort by the fetus’s race or sex, regardless of whether that’s what actually motivated the woman.”

I suppose on the bright side it is good that the bill exempts the pregnant person from penalty, but really? Allowing someone other than the pregnant person to decide if and why that person should or should not get an abortion is just sick. Penalizing a doctor for it is even worse. The entire bill is just absurd and really a waste of time as it is unlikely the bill would pass through the Democratic controlled Senate, but still. The fact that this bill managed to pass committee makes me sad.

The near constant attacks from socially conservative politicians on reproductive health are beyond disheartening. Though I admit the past few weeks have shown that when we put our minds to it, we really can be successful at pushing these attacks back. The backlash against Susan G Komen and the Virginia Transvaginal Ultrasound laws have shown us that.

Abortion, Abortion Rights, anti-abortion, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Kansas has a Few Ridiculous Bills in Committee

Well, it’s only February but Kansas seems to be dead set on being named “abortion hater state of the year.” Last year more abortions restrictions were passed by the Federal and State governments since, well ever. 135 anti-abortion and anti-family planning laws were passed in 2011 alone. 92 of those specifically target abortion access. Kansas seems to want to make 2012 a repeat record breaker in the world of limiting abortion access.

Legislators there have proposed an amendment to the state constitution which would declare that a fertilized egg is a person and has the full rights of personhood. In other words it would ban abortions. If approved by the legislature, the amendment then needs to be voted on by the citizens of Kansas to be approved and on an Election Day vote, would be very unlikely to pass. Robin Marty are Care2 points out that this vote will not happen on Election Day though. It will take place on the primary vote, which have a significantly lower turn out that Election Day votes. It also has more restrictions for who can vote which could give an edge to the anti-choice movement.

The amendment still has a long way to go before it becomes a reality, but it’s not the only thing Kansas politicians have cooking. They have also proposed a bill that would announce that as far as the legislature is concerned a fertilized egg is the equivalent of a person. It’s not a “personhood amendment” just a law and includes language that the bill would theoretically protect people who have had a miscarriage but there is no guarantee that would be enacted by law enforcement agencies. The wording is vague and only protects them if the miscarriage results in “failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care.” So if you don’t eat well and have a miscarriage you are ok, but what if you fall and have one? Could the police then charge you for intentionally causing the demise of a fetus because the fall wasn’t conclusively accidental? Since this is not an amendment it doesn’t have to be voted on by the general public and could then limit abortion access.

Sadly, that isn’t all Kansas has going on right now. New legislation has recently been introduced to the committee level that is, according to the Huffington Post, “One of the most sweeping state anti-abortion bills to be introduced.” It’s pretty messed up. The bill includes provisions that a doctor must inform their patients of a non-existing link between abortion and breast cancer and make the patient hear the fetal heartbeat. It would take away tax credits for abortion providers as well as remove tax-deductions for the purchase of abortion related insurance coverage. All of these issues are beyond problematic. The part that is really messed up though; is that the bill would exempt doctors from a malpractice suit if they don’t inform their patient about a medical complication or potential birth defects if providing the patient with the information might cause the patient to seek an abortion. Even if the medical complication puts the patient’s health or safety at risk, the doctor can choose not to inform her about it; even if a permanent injury result, the doctor is protected. In fact, the only way they can be held responsible for withholding the information from the patient is in a wrongful death suit. As in when the patient doesn’t get anything out of it.

Clearly some anti-choice craziness is going on over in the “Sunflower State” and needs to be nipped in the bud. Hopefully the more sane lawmakers will keep these laws from becoming reality. Either way, we will keep you posted.

Abortion, Abortion Rights, anti-abortion, Government Policy, pro-choice, reproductive rights

North Dakota

                Non-surgical abortions are a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy without requiring a surgical procedure. In the U.S. it is generally administered with two medications; the first to stop fetal growth and the second to induce a miscarriage. While is it likely that a miscarriage will occur naturally after fetal growth is halted it can take longer for this to occur which is why the second medication is used. This option is commonly chosen by women who want to avoid the invasiveness of a surgical procedure or who want to pass the pregnancy in the privacy of their homes. Whatever their reasons are for choosing a medication termination over a surgical are personal to each individual and should not be limited.

Last summer, North Dakota lawmakers banned the off label use of a common medication used in medication terminations. Most medications are approved by the FDA for one or two uses but are useful for many other medical conditions. For example Topamax® is a prescription medication FDA approved for the treatment of epilepsy in adults or children; however it has been found to also be effective in treating migraines. Doctors who prescribe it for migraine sufferers are prescribing it for an off-label use. The North Dakota law only bans off label use for a medication used in abortions; not off label use in general which makes it unconstitutional and unfairly limits the options available to abortion patients.

According to the Huffington Post the Red River Women’s Clinic performs approximately 1300 abortions a year and about 250 of them are medication based. They use mifeprex to stop fetal growth and this medication is FDA approved for that use. The problem comes with the second medication used to induce a miscarriage, misoprostol which is FDA approved for the treatment of ulcers but not abortion.

In July the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of Red River Women’s Clinic, (the only abortion provider in the state) filed suit against the law and was successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order to block the law from taking effect. The judge has been hearing arguments both for and against the law and has continued the order until he makes a decision regarding a permanent block on the law.

The law leaves women with access to the drug that stops cell growth but not the drug that will actually cause the miscarriage, according to CanadianBusiness.com this is one of the issues the judge has with the law. He is quoted as saying “You’ve got one drug … that’s labeled for use in abortions, but you’ve got another drug that isn’t, and you need them both… I don’t get it. How do I get around that?” The lawyer for the state replied that mifeprex alone could induce an abortion. Judge Corwin replied: “So you’re suggesting that a doctor should give patients the (mifeprex) and just hope that that works? And if it doesn’t, then what do they do?” He also pointed out that the state didn’t provide evidence that medication abortions are unsafe or even less safe than the surgical procedure.

                Though Judge Corwin has yet to make a final decision, it seems there is reason to be hopeful that this law will be overturned.

Abortion, anti-abortion, pro-choice

This Week in “Wait, What!?!”

               As a pro-choice activist I’m always a little flabbergasted by the things anti-choice folks say and do. I mean, I grew up Catholic, so I get where they are coming from- most of them really do believe that a fetus is a baby and that it deserves to be born. What I don’t get are the beliefs that people who have abortions don’t understand what they are doing or that birth control is the same as an abortion and all the various other beliefs that seem to go along with the anti-choice/anti-contraception view point. The logic they use to get to these ideas is always so flawed that I’m amazed people go along with it.

                This week I heard about a new anti-choice belief that put the rest to shame. Granted it seems to be just a small group of the super extreme anti-choice activists who are spreading it, but it exists nonetheless and has even gotten enough attention to cause an Oklahoma legislator to introduce a bill to keep it from happening. Apparently, some people think that food and cosmetic manufacturers are using cells from aborted fetuses in their products….

                The ridiculousness of that is so absurd that I’m not even sure how to respond to it, other than to call it absurd. This idea came to my attention through an article on the Huffington Post detailing a new bill introduced to the Oklahoma State Senate by Senator Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City). The bill states that No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.”

            While Shortey acknowledges that, as written, the bill seems absurd he says it’s not really about finished food products; “People are thinking that this has to do with fetuses being chopped up and put in our burritos…That’s not the case. It’s beyond that… There are companies that are using embryonic stem cells to research and basically cause a chemical reaction to determine whether or not something tastes good or not… As a pro-life advocate, it kind of disturbed me that we would use aborted embryos or aborted human fetuses to extract stem cells and use them for research to basically make things taste better.”

                An anti-choice group Children of God for Life have put out information claiming that Semonyx (a company that produces artificial flavor enhancers) uses fetal cells in their research. Semonyx partners with numerous food manufacturers including PepsiCo who responded to these claims. The Huffington Post has a spokesperson quoted as saying “Unfortunately, there is some misinformation being circulated related to research techniques that have been used for decades by universities, hospitals, government agencies, and private companies around the world. These claims are meant to suggest that human fetal tissue is somehow used in our research…That is both inaccurate and something we would never do or even consider. It also is inaccurate to suggest that tissue or cells somehow are being used as product ingredients. That’s dangerous, unethical and against the law. Every ingredient in every one of our products is reviewed and approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

                So basically it isn’t happening but I guess some people feel the need to proactively ensure that it never happens.

Abortion Rights, anti-abortion, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Teddy Bears and Politics

               I would like to start this post by saying that I LOVE stuffed animals; they are cute, cuddly and comforting. I have them in my room as well as in storage bins in both my house and my mom’s house because I can’t bring myself to throw them away or donate them. So yeah I love stuffed animals, but there are some places where stuffed animals just don’t belong. The Ohio State Senate (or any State Senate really) is one of them.

                The anti-abortion group Faith 2 Actions apparently disagrees with that opinion. Last week they sent a group of children estimated to be around 9 or 10 into the offices of State Senators to present them with teddy bears who when squeezed played a recording of a heartbeat. They also recited a short appeal to pass the Heartbeat bill that will be voted on soon. According to quotes at the Huffington Post the children were not accompanied by adults, at least not into the offices directly.

                The Senators interviewed by the Huffington Post all express the same sentiment, basically they are appalled. This was a blatant ploy by anti-abortion groups to try and emotionally manipulate the Senators. There was no subtlety or finesse; it was just a ridiculous attempt to guilt trip pro-choice lawmakers. Of course that isn’t really surprising since Faith 2 Action is the same group responsible for a fetus testifying during the House hearing on the same bill.

                This most recent attempt at emotional manipulation was largely unsuccessful as new reports have come out stating that most of the Senators are returning the teddy bears. According to Ohio laws any gifts valued over $25 have to be reported as a gift and the bears are valued to cost $33.33. Since that is over the $25 limit most of the Senators don’t seem to feel it’s worth the effort to claim them. According to RH Reality Check, Faith 2 Action doesn’t want the bears back and have recommended the Senators donate them to CPC’s. I really hope they donate them to local children’s hospitals or homeless shelters that support families with young children instead. At least then they will go to organizations that actually try to help people instead of imposing religion on them.

                For readers who aren’t aware, the Heartbeat bill is a potential law that would ban any abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus. The Heartbeat bill passed the House in June of 2011 but has yet to be voted in the Senate. There was a scheduled vote for the end of 2011 but it was postponed until the 2012 session due to concerns by Senators who wanted more time to evaluate some changes that were made.

Abortion, anti-abortion, Government Policy, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Virginia’s Potential Ultrasound Law

               Well, it looks like Virginia might be jumping on the required ultrasound bandwagon. As we mention earlier this week, the most extreme required ultrasound law exists in Texas, where not only do doctors have to give patients an ultrasound, they also have to describe the image and make the fetal heartbeat audible. Awesome right? While Texas is the only state to require forcing the doctor show the ultrasound, they are far from the only state to require an ultrasound be preformed. According to the Guttmacher Institute, at present, 6 states require ultrasounds to be preformed. Nine more require that if an ultrasound is performed, then the doctor must offer the patient an opportunity to see it. Keyword here is offer.

                Now Virginia lawmakers are jumping on board and they aren’t being tentative about it. There are currently 2 different required ultrasound bills in committee in the Virginia Legislature. Both were submitted this week by 2 different lawmakers. The more extreme of the two was submitted by Delegate Mark L. Cole (R- Fredericksburg). This law requires that patients give written informed consent before they can get an abortion done and part of that “informed consent” is having an ultrasound done and offer the patient the opportunity to view the image. The ultrasound according to this bill must be done at least 48 hours before the procedure is done unless there is a medical emergency. Apparently forcing patients to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound isn’t enough for Del. Cole, no he seems to think people seeking abortions haven’t actually thought about the decision yet.

                The second bill was introduced by Delegate Kathy J. Byron (R- Campbell County) and also requires written informed consent and an ultrasound be preformed and the image offered to the patient. Her bill only requires a two hour waiting period from the time the ultrasound is done to the time of the procedure. Her bill is clearly the lesser of two evils because at least it won’t require two trips on the part of the patient. This is especially important in Virginia because the trap laws recently enacted there have the potential to close most if not all the clinics in the state making it harder for patients to get to a clinic for even just one appointment much less a second appointment.

                This is the fifth time Delegate Byron has introduced an ultrasound bill to committee, each time getting the bill passed by the state House of Delegates. The state Senate Education and Health Committee however, never let the bill out to the floor. The most recent election however, changed the Senate population and the Committee will have a stronger Republican influence this year than it did in past years, so if either bill makes it through the House, it may well pass at least the Senate committee.

                If either bill passes and is then signed into law it will be a ridiculous intrusion into the medical care of people seeking abortions. Sadly, there is a strong chance that at least one of them will pass because as the recently enacted TRAP laws prove, Virginia has a pretty conservative government.