Abortion, Abortion Rights, health care, pro-choice

CRR Files to Re-open FDA Plan B Suit

                Teva, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures Plan B has been attempting to get Plan B approved for over the counter status for over a decade. The Center for Reproductive Rights has been assisting them as they pursued lawsuits seeking interventions from the court system when it became clear that the FDA was putting political ideologies above science. The full background is a little complex so if you want the long version read our earlier posts regarding this topic.

                The long and short of it was that the FDA under former President George W. Bush’s administration was under orders to decline Teva’s application for OTC status. This information came out so Teva and the CRR sought a court injunction regarding it. The judge who presided over it ordered the FDA to re-examine the evidence and make the decision based on science instead of ideology. They did this but it took them a while so Teva and the CRR filed a motion of contempt against the FDA. While all this was going on President Obama got elected and appointed Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

                While the contempt hearing was pending, the FDA announced its intention to approve the OTC status of Plan B. Sadly, Secretary Sebelius decided to step in and (for the first time in American history) overrode the FDA’s decision. The contempt hearing was still scheduled and Judge Korman (the same judge who ordered the re-examination) dismissed the contempt charges because the FDA tried to follow science. He also recommended Teva and the CRR file to have their original suit re-opened and to add Secretary Sebelius as a defendant.

                Last week, they did exactly that. According to the press release on the CRR website “The new suit asks U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman to issue a preliminary injunction that would allow all levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives —both the single-dose Plan B One-Step and the two-dose generic brands — to be immediately approved for unrestricted over-the-counter sale.” Specifically, they want it available in 30 days.

                During all of this, President Obama and his administration have pushed forward regulations that will require all women with health insurance get birth control without a co-pay. This includes Plan B so his seems to have a two-sided view of Plan B; he wants people to have it as long as they are over 17.

                Judge Korman has been demonstrably clear in his support for the greater access to Plan B given that science supports it. It is possible he will grant the CRR’s petition, but we will keep you posted.

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Abortion, Abortion Rights, pro-choice, reproductive rights

How to use Comedy to Make a Point

                Personhood seems to be all the rage in terms of anti-choice legislation. It has already been voted on and defeated in both Colorado and Mississippi. Despite resounding no’s from voters, lawmakers in other states seem insistent upon getting “personhood” amendments up for a vote in numerous other states. One state jumping on the bandwagon is Oklahoma. Lawmakers there currently have two separate personhood bills in committee. One that would put “personhood” on the ballot and let the voters decide; the other would make fetal “personhood” a statute.

                Not everyone in the Oklahoma State Senate thinks that “personhood” is a good idea. The bill proposing making fetal “personhood” a statute was introduced by Sen. Brian Crain (R- Tulsa) who insists that the statute would not impact the legality of abortion or birth control or in vitro fertilization like is would it so many other states. It merely states that as far as Oklahoma is concerned any embryos/fetuses that are aborted are persons.

                In response to the proposed bill Sen. Jim Wilson (D-Tahlequah) proposed an amendment “that would make the father of an unborn child financially responsible for its mother’s health care, housing, transportation and nourishment while she is pregnant.” You know, to ensure the fetus “person” gets proper care. His proposed amendment failed.

                Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Oklahoma City) also proposed an amendment but hers was more blatantly intended to fail. She proposed an “every sperm is sacred” amendment which would add this language to the bill:However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”

                According to an article on The Guardian website Sen. Johnson says her amendmentseeks to draw attention to the absurdity, duplicity and lack of balance inherent in the policies of this state in regard to women.” It is also intended to “draw humorous attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of this proposal – from the Republican perspective of down-sized government and less government intrusion into people’s private affairs.”

                When the amendment was brought up in committee for discussion Sen. Johnson voted to table it highlight the fact that she never intended the amendment to be serious. It is merely her attempt to use humor to bring to light the ridiculous nature of fetal “personhood.” Between her and Virginia State Senator Janet Howell, it seems like women politicians are fighting back with humor and I’m ok with that. What about you? Do think amendments like this are useful or pointless?

Birth Control, Emergency Contraception, Government Policy, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Birth Control Mandate Update

So this has been a pretty hectic couple of weeks in the world of reproductive health. You’ve all heard about the mandate stating that insurance companies will have to provide birth control without a co-pay right? And you know about how last month the Obama administration announced that although churches and other religious organizations that primarily employ and serve members of the religion can seek an exemption to the rule on the grounds of religious opposition to birth control use but organizations that are religiously affiliated but employ and serve people outside of the religion will not be exempted too right? Ok good, well in the time since that announcement the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other conservative leaders have been decrying the issue as infringement on religious liberty.

What they are saying is that any religious employer should have the right to not offer insurance plans that provide no co-pay birth control because the employer’s religion opposes it. This is absurd and completely negates the experience of the employee who has the right to bodily autonomy, which should be more important than the religious institution’s right to pick and choose what services are available in their insurance plans but that hasn’t stopped birth control opponents from being extremely vocal in their opposition to this ruling.

Today President Obama announced an “accommodation” for religious employers who don’t want to directly provide insurance coverage for birth control. A fact sheet released by the White House states: “Under the policy: Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception. Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.  Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers’ insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception. Insurance companies will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge.”

In theory this should appease everyone. Women still get their birth control, religiously affiliated employers get to not provide the coverage, and insurance companies like it because birth control is cheaper than abortions and maternity care. So win-win-win right? Except that opposition to birth control coverage was never really about “religious liberty” it was about controlling women’s bodies. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has already announced his opposition to the new rules and Greg Sargent at the Washington Post expects more to follow.

Earlier this week Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) announced a bill that would grant an exemption to ANY employer who feels birth control violates their personal morals. So even if you don’t work for a religious institution, if your boss wants to refuse to provide birth control coverage they could, should this bill pass. Now that the new rules have been announced it is unclear if this bill would still be needed. Since religious employers can now opt out of providing coverage they don’t need the bill. Or would the bill go through and the new rules extended to private companies that opt out of providing birth control coverage. At this point this is all still speculation but as more news develops we will let you know.

Check out the speech President Obama made announcing the rules, he gave some really great information about women’s right to access birth control.

Abortion, Abortion Rights, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Mandatory Waiting Periods

26 states require women to have counseling prior to having an abortion with a specific amount of time in between, usually 24 hours. 9 of these states require the counseling be in person which requires 2 separate trips to the facility. One of the most common reasons reported for seeking an abortion is lack of financial resources to care for a new child. They are already scrapping by to make ends meet. They may not have the financial resources to take of work for 2 days.

In particular these laws impact women in rural areas who will also have to travel to get to their appointments. With a 24 hour waiting period this means finding a place to stay overnight as well as time off of work and travel money. Sometimes they stay in a cheap hotel or if they are lucky at a friend or relative who lives closer than they do. Sometimes they just sleep in their cars.

This is a hardship these women shouldn’t have to endure. Requiring counseling on the basis of “informed consent” is completely patronizing and assumes pregnant people decide to have abortions on a whim. It assumes that they haven’t already put thought into the decision prior to scheduling an appointment and that is simply not true.  People do think about their decision before calling an abortion clinic, they think about their financial situation, they think about their emotional and mental situations. They think about whether they want a child and if they can take care of a child. In the end they decide that at that moment in time, they cannot continue the pregnancy.

Unfortunately, this hardship is not enough for some people. Last year South Dakota law makers extended the waiting period to 72 hours. As of now that law has been blocked by the court system. In spite of this, lawmakers in Utah are trying to do the same thing. Representative Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) has proposed a bill that, if approved, would extend the existing Utah waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

Are the women in rural areas supposed to take 2 trips for this? Because last time I checked gas is pretty expensive. In Utah (at this point in time) it ranges from $2.84-$3.49 a gallon. Or should they just take 3-4 days off of work? If they did that where do they stay? A cheap motel may be an affordable option for one night, but for 3 nights? Should they just sleep in their car all three nights? That is absurd. Women do think about it before having an abortion, and they still go through with them even when states mandate counseling and waiting periods. Can we all just acknowledge these laws serve only one purpose; making women seeking abortions lives more difficult.

Birth Control, Emergency Contraception, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Lack of BC access Equals Higher Unintended Pregnancy Rates

It’s a bit of a no brainer to deduce that lack of access to effective birth control has a direct correlation to higher rates of unintended pregnancy. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute takes this information one step farther and shows how programs that provide access to birth control impact unintended pregnancies at a state level. The research shows that women who are not insured and who do not have access to Medicaid are disproportionately more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy.

 From the abstract: “State unintended pregnancy rates were positively associated with the proportion of resident women who were black or Hispanic. However, these associations were almost entirely accounted for by differences in the age and marital status of women, the proportion without health insurance and the proportion receiving Medicaid. In addition, these last two measures were strongly associated with state unintended pregnancy rates after the other measures were controlled for: An increase in the proportion of women uninsured was associated with elevated unintended pregnancy rates, and an increase in the proportion receiving Medicaid coverage was associated with reduced rates.” In laymen’s terms, this means that states with higher numbers of uninsured women and women not covered by Medicaid have higher rates of unintended pregnancy.

If you follow reproductive health news, you’ve likely heard about the recent decision to NOT broaden an exemption to the Affordable Health Care act that will require insurers provide birth control at no co-pay. This is great news for women with insurance but as this study shows, it will do little to health women who don’t have insurance or who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

The researchers of the study conclude that “State programs and policies should pay particular attention to increasing support for family planning services for minority groups. Findings also suggest that insurance coverage and receipt of Medicaid among women of reproductive age deserve further exploration as potentially important mechanisms for reducing state unintended pregnancy rates.” Expanding access to birth control coverage is of vital importance if states want to reduce their levels of unintended pregnancy. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be a priority at the state level, last year a number of states attempted to or successfully cut budgets to their family planning programs after an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood at a national level failed.

If you believe all women have to right to affordable contraceptives, let your local government officials know you want funding for programs that help provide contraceptive access in high populations.

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, reproductive rights

Misopolis Campaign

The Abortioneers Blog introduced me to an interesting new ad campaign that was released earlier this month. It is a series of ad’s set in “Misopolis” a fictional city where the factory workers have the right to control their own lives/bodies and can get abortions on demand and without apology. Some of the ad taglines are “Abortion Pills are a Gift from God” and “Immaculate Contraception- When the Bubble Bursts, Unplanned Pregnancies Happen.” The web URL for the campaign is DieselForWomen.com and on first glance, the campaign seems to be actually from Diesel the clothing company. The ad has a similar style to those that Diesel regularly uses and there is even a faux-press release on the site.

For those of you unfamiliar with sweatshops they are factories, usually in poor and developing countries, with very little regulation. The workers are frequently women and children who are forced to work in brutal, unsafe conditions to produce clothing, electronics etc for brands that sell in more economically advanced areas. The campaign announces a new type of factory for Diesel workers in which they are treated as more than just glorified work horses. The “press release” explains that Misopolis is a factory for women workers to be treated as successful people with fair wages and proper working conditions. The release also states that the site will soon feature opportunities to view videos and photos from Misopolis as well as to donate the abortion pill to help the workers and even buy “worker’s rights friendly clothing”.

In reality the campaign is from Women on Waves, an organization that provides abortions to women in need in countries where abortion is illegal. They sail around the world providing misoprostol tablets to women seeking abortions. Misoprostol is a medication approved for treating ulcers but is commonly used to induce a miscarriage. It is one half of the medications commonly used in the U.S. for medication based terminations. Usually in the U.S. women are given Methotrexate or Mifepristone to stop fetal growth and then misoprostol is used to induce a miscarriage. Misoprostol can be used alone, though it is slightly less effective. In countries where abortion is illegal it is usually the only safe option women have to terminate a pregnancy.

Women on Waves released a statement (posted on the Diesel for Women website) detailing their motives for releasing the ad campaign. In it they state “Women on Waves designed the hoax to expose the violations of women’s rights that take place in the garment industry. The hoax is a parody on the PR campaigns and the reluctance to address human rights by the fashion industry in general and Diesel in particular. It intends to show that violations of human rights never happen in isolation and that the right to a safe abortion is connected with the broader framework of social rights, workers rights and the right to autonomy.”

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a fascinating way to raise awareness for 2 very big problems, the lack of abortion care in so many third world (and some first world) countries as well as the plight of factory workers stuck in unsafe environments. A lot of people are outraged, including Diesel, who released a statement announcing they will be taking legal action against the campaign. What do you think, is the campaign brilliant or copyright infringement? Or both?