Abortion, Abortion Rights, Birth Control, Emergency Contraception, feminism, pro-choice, reproductive rights

“We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Women (and men) like me have been outraged for quite some time about the ridiculous, antiquated views on women’s roles espoused by conservatives. Feminist activists are not unfamiliar with that feeling of “wait, he/she/they said/did what?!?!” when it comes to proposed legislation and even just speeches made by those with conservative views. We are constantly bombarded by the feeling that the fight against women’s rights is gaining strength. It seems the tide has turned and people with moderate and liberal values but who aren’t likely to become involved in activism are finally catching on to the fact that conservatives will not stop until women are barefoot, pregnant and chained to an oven. They are getting outraged too. Even some Republican women are considering jumping ship from the party because their leaders just won’t stop focusing on women’s bodies.

Want proof of the backlash? Well first I’d like to remind you of the Planned Parenthood vs. Susan G. Komen debacle where the general public made clear that they want Planned Parenthood to stay funded. Then we have the Rush Limbaugh backlash. At last count he had lost over 50 advertisers due to pressure from the general public threatening a boycott of companies that continue to support him. According to this article the stations that air his show are actually losing money and they postulate it’s only a matter of time before he loses his spot as a golden boy of the Republican Party.

The New York Times also reported on a seemingly growing trend in which moderate Republican women are jumping ship and considering voting for President Obama due to the Republican candidates’ inability to focus on anything other than women’s bodies. They want to see them talk about a real plan to fix the economy, not espousing support for things like the abhorrent Blunt amendment.

There is also a massive online movement to coordinate a March against the War on Women in all 50 States as well as D.C. Check out their website here. They have a Facebook page to assist in the organizing as well. As I write this there is an active protest at the Texas State Capitol demanding Governor Perry reconsider turning down federal funding that would go to support health care providers for low-income and uninsured women. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg so if you have examples, share them in the comments.

 I’m not the only person to notice the increased activism in the world of women’s rights. Barbara Hannah Grufferman wrote an article about this over at the Huffington Post and included a list of ways to get involved. The most important (in my opinion) is to share what you are doing with your friends and family. Let them know you are angry and why, get them involved too.

In honor of all the women (and men) who are getting involved I’d like to share this video with you. Watch it, it’s funny and has appropriate imagery for the topic: a woman with her male allies fighting against an oppressive male figure.


Government Policy

VAWA Passed through Committee

                The lack of concern Republican politicians have for Americans is appalling. It seems that we are hearing about another bill or regulation being pushed by them that do nothing but make the lives of the non-rich people harder. It seems they have decided to take things to a new low. Back in December the Violence Against Women Act was finally reintroduced to Congress to be reauthorized.

                This month it was reviewed in committee and passed to the Senate floor for a full vote. It was passed through committee with a 10-8 vote. Meaning 8 people voted against reauthorizing the Act that revolutionized the way domestic violence is treated in our country. The act that brought the problem of domestic abuse to the federal level and created programs to advocate for and assist victims and to train police officers on how to handle a domestic situation.

                For the first time in its 20 year history, VAWA failed to get bipartisan support. The reasons the Republican Senators decided to not vote for it? Apparently because it helps too many people. The proposed bill includes new language that will increase support for disadvantaged groups. For example, according to the New York Times one of the sticking points was language that guarantees protection to homosexual and transgender victims of domestic violence. They are also opposed to additions that create a modest expansion to the availability of special visas for undocumented immigrants who come forward for help. Another issue they have with the bill is the expanded rights it gives to Native American Tribes to prosecute both Native Americans and Non-Native Americans in domestic violence cases.

                All I can think is seriously? They are so full of hatred for minorities that they think it is acceptable to ignore the women and children being battered and assaulted by their partners? That just because someone is gay or Native American or undocumented, their beatings should be allowed to continue? It literally makes me shudder to think some of these negative politicians might actually manage to be re-elected.

                The bill will likely pass as the Democrats have a majority in the Senate, but it’s important to let our Senators know we want ALL victims of domestic violence to be protected, not just some of them. If the actions of these senators sickens you as much as it does me, please reach out to your Senators now. Contact information can be obtained here.

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.

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

Politicians Stand Up for Women’s Health Care

                We write about political attacks against women’s health care, specifically reproductive health care, a lot on this blog. We feel it is important to make as many people aware of the widespread contempt many conservative politicians seem to have towards ensuring women get proper and timely medical care. From mandatory ultrasounds before abortion laws to cutting funding from programs that specifically fund women’s health care providers it seems there is no lack of politicians supporting an anti-health care agenda. Something we don’t talk about as much, but which deserves attention none the less, are the politicians who attempt to stand up against these attacks.

                Recently, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure changed their funding guidelines which would have prevented them from giving grants to Planned Parenthood for their breast screening and health education programs. Outrage was expressed by Planned Parenthood supporters all over the country including 22 Democratic Senators. The Washington Post reported that after the news broke Sen. Frank Lautenburg (D-NJ) began recruiting co-signers to a “toughly worded” letter imploring Komen to reverse their decision. According to RH Reality Check, an additional 4 Senators had signed on bringing the total up to 26. This campaign along with public pressure seems to have worked as Komen has released a statement indicating they will honor all existing grants to Planned Parenthood and will ensure that Planned Parenthood retains its eligibility to apply for future grants.

                Another attempt to support women’s health care came from Virginia State Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax). Conservative Senators recently proposed a bill that will require all patients seeking abortions to have an ultrasound preformed before they can have their procedure. This is a non-medically necessary imposition that is intended only to dissuade women from getting abortions. Senator Howell, in an attempt to point out the ludicrousness of imposing politics onto what should be a private decision between a doctor and their patient, proposed an amendment to the bill that would also require men seeking Viagra prescriptions be given a cardiac stress test and rectal exam before they can receive the prescription. Her amendment was defeated but the bill is expected to pass in a vote next week. On the bright side her message was received by at least 18 of her colleagues.

                One major politician who recently stood up for women’s health care is the President himself, Barack Obama. In spite of major pressure from the religious right and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops he has refused to sacrifice women’s health care by granting a broad exemption to the requirement that health insurance plans must cover birth control. The USCCB sought a broad exemption for any religiously affiliated group to be allowed to provide plans that did not cover contraception because it goes against their religious beliefs. This would have meant a huge number of women who work for institutions like Catholic hospitals or universities would not have had coverage for contraception even though they themselves are not Catholic.

                Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are politicians who care about women’s health care, so if your local, state or federal politicians have stood up for women’s health recently take some time to let them know it’s appreciated.

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

Congressman seeks to Limit D.C. Abortions Rights

As the capital city of the United States Washington, D.C. is not a state and has only a nonvoting representation in Congress. Congress has the power to create and pass any laws for D.C. that it pleases so basically D.C. has only a facsimile of self-government. For the most part Congress doesn’t abuse this power and lets city officials be a government without a large amount of interference. One area of D.C. life that Congress is apparently totally ok with interfering in is abortion rights.

Last year as part of a national spending bill they included a ban on spending local D.C. taxes on abortion coverage through the city’s Medicaid program. This was in spite of the fact that D.C. officials and residents made it abundantly clear that they should have the right to determine how they want to spend their own money and they want to cover abortions in the city Medicaid program.

This year it seems they want to go after D.C. abortions rights again. Representative Trent Franks (R- AZ) has introduced the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which would prohibit women in D.C. from having abortions past 20 weeks. Similar legislation has been introduced in a number of state legislatures based on the shaky theory that a fetus can feel pain as early as 20 week and is currently active in 5 states.

The research supporting this claim is shaky at best and in fact most researchers and medical associations including the American College of Gynecology and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists assert that fetal pain doesn’t develop until much later in a pregnancy. In fact research done by researchers at the University of California San Francisco shows a fetus most likely doesn’t feel pain until around 28 weeks. In other words a full two months after this kind of ban prohibits abortions.

The proposed law does have an exemption for the life of the mother but it does not include one for when the fetus has a defect that makes it incompatible with life even though this is one of the primary reasons people have abortions past 20 weeks. So basically the law is pointless in protecting against pain for two primary reasons. First a fetus likely can’t feel pain that early anyway. The second reason it doesn’t protect against pain is because it will actually cause pain. A pregnancy that would have been ended due to a defect will have to be carried to term; the pregnant person would have to give birth which is in fact pretty painful. Then the parents have suffered through losing the baby that can’t survive outside of the womb. It seems to me that this law is not protection; it’s mostly just cruel.

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

Birth Control Coverage Exemption

If you are a regular reader of this blog or if you follow news about reproductive health then you are probably aware that last summer the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would include contraceptives as preventative care. This means that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives without a co-pay for all new and renewed plans as of August 2012. This is a huge step forward for reproductive health because it means everyone with health insurance will have access to their preferred method of birth control with no out-of-pocket expenses. This means more people will be able to prevent unintended pregnancy without straining their bank accounts.

Since the decision was made the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other anti-contraception religious groups have been lobbying to get a broad exemption included that would allow workplaces that are run by religious groups but that employ or service people who do not participate in that religion to purchase plans that DO NOT include contraceptive coverage. For example a school owned/operated by the Catholic Church would be able to deny its employees coverage for birth control as well as refuse to provide it to their students through an on campus health center or student insurance program. This is in spite of the fact most professors and students are the school are not Catholic themselves.

Many liberals and groups that support greater access to contraception have been lobbying just as hard to ensure that the exemption doesn’t go through so that the people who work for this institutions would not lose their access to no co-pay birth control. On January 20th, their hard work has been rewarded because the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would NOT expand the exemption. As it stands only groups that employ predominantly members of that religion are allowed to have plans that do not cover contraceptives. This means that the local Catholic Church itself can choose to not provide birth control to its direct employees but the hospital it is running must provide it to the people who work there.

The DHHS has included a one year extension to religious groups that are currently not providing coverage but that will be required to cover it in the future. The extension will not apply to any groups that are already providing some kind of coverage for contraceptives. While the extension will cover any schools/universities that don’t currently offer contraceptives it will not included the students. Schools must begin to supply their students with birth control through health centers and insurance plans. Any employer who takes advantage of the delay must also provide their employees with information regarding local resources where they can obtain low cost birth control until their insurance coverage begins.