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, 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.


Abortion, Abortion Rights, Birth Control, Breast Cancer, pro-choice

Susan G. Komen Defunds PP

                Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how insidious the anti-choice movement can be. With loud, boisterous opposition like Randall Terry and Operation Rescue; not to mention the very distinct attacks on abortion rights going on at the state level recently it can sometimes seem like everything they do is intentionally portrayed to “save the unborn babies.” Sometimes though, they are sneaky.

                Last fall we wrote about a Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthoods financial records to determine if they are using federal funds to pay for abortions, something that is expressly forbidden by the Hyde Amendment. Planned Parenthood maintains they have not used the funds for abortions and that any funding for abortions comes from private or state level donations (in states where this is legal.)

                Planned Parenthood provides a number of services aside from abortions including STD testing, access to birth control, pap smears and breast exams. Money from the federal government goes towards these services. They also receive money from private sources for these services as well. 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates were recipients of grants from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to help them provide breast exams for low-income, uninsured and under-insured patients in the communities they serve.

                They have been receiving these grants for years and the Susan G. Komen foudation has defended them saying they provide life saving services by giving breast exams. Sadly, less than a year ago, the foundation hired Karen Handel is a vocally anti-choice activist who ran for Governor of Georgia on an anti-choice platform. Since hiring her, the foundation has changed their polices for grant giving forbidding giving grants to any group that is under investigation by any local, state, or federal government agency.

                This new policy means that the Susan G. Komen foundation will no longer be giving grants to the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates. They claim it is not a political move and is not meant to reflect any anti-choice sentiments, but this seems insincere given that the change to policy came only after they hired an anti-choice activist and after a Congressional investigation began.

                Some local chapters of the foundation are not happy with the national headquarters decision; and at least one, SGK of Connecticut has posted a public statement against the decision.  Planned Parenthood has also issued a statement expressing their disappointment in losing the grants and to announce that in spite of the lost funding they intend to ensure that no one in the communities served by these affiliates loses access to health care. They have created the Breast Health Emergency Fund to provide emergency funding to these affiliates and make sure that there is no interruption to their funding to the services they are able to provide.

                If you want to support full access to women’s health care, check out this article at GOOD.com, they give some awesome ways to help support broader access.

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

New Hampshire Planned Parenthood

Most of the time when I read about conservative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at a federal level, it’s all pretty much the same nonsense over and over like the “Planned Parenthood kills babies and taxpayers shouldn’t have to support that…” type arguments. Never mind that no taxpayer money actually goes to provide abortions due to the Hyde amendment, anti-abortion activists just can’t seem to accept any money going to Planned Parenthood and similar groups at all. The situation in New Hampshire is just a smidge different that it feels like a whole new topic.

Since defunding Planned Parenthood at the federal level failed miserably, many anti-abortion lawmakers decided to try it on the state level to varying degrees of success. In New Hampshire, the Executive Council there decided to decline a $1.8 million state contract with Planned Parenthood, cutting a huge source of its income. The federal government then gave Planned Parenthood in the state a federal grant of $1 million to make sure they could keep their clinics open and continue to provide services to the members of the community. Again, none of this money goes to pay for abortions, it just helps low income patients receive the reproductive healthcare they need and deserve.

Apparently this action is not sitting well with the anti-abortion groups in the state. Particularly the New Hampshire Right to Life group. According to them, these services could be provided at a regular hospital: “With the recent cuts in subsidies to hospitals, the full service hospitals located in each of the communities where Planned Parenthood operates an abortion clinic would be better able to provide a variety of health care services to people in need…’’ Because apparently hospitals don’t have other things to do… like take care of sick people.

 So the NHRTL filed a Freedom of Information act request to the Department of Health and Human Services to find out why they money was granted to Planned Parenthood instead of other health care groups. The HHS responded saying they would not be able to fill the request in the normally allotted time frame so the NHRTL filed a suit to have a federal judge order the documents be handed over. I have to say, this just seems to extreme to me. Like really, is it that serious that the federal government handed out a grant to a family planning group under Title X, an act created to provide funding to family planning groups? Sometimes I wonder if anti-abortion advocates just have too much time on their hands.

Abortion Rights, Birth Control, Government Policy, pro-choice, reproductive rights, women's health, women's health care

Wisconsin Defunds Well Women Program

               It’s no secret that right-wing politicians don’t like Planned Parenthood. They have made that fact incredibly clear over the past year. They have claimed throughout most of their defunding efforts, that they only oppose Planned Parenthoods abortion services. Wisconsin is showing us that really, they don’t care what services Planned Parenthood provides, they just want them closed no matter who it hurts.

                For the past 17 years Wisconsin has run the Well Women’s Program, which provides free breast cancer, cervical cancer and multiple sclerosis screenings to uninsured women ages 45-64. The program runs on both federal and state funding used to pay contractors to provide the services. The program provides life saving services to women in the state.

                Yet Governor Walker doesn’t seem to care about that. He has decided not to renew a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide the screenings. In some areas the impact will be minimal. Women who may have previously gone to Planned Parenthood for care, who may have a doctor they are comfortable with, will have to find a new provider. Who cares if they have an existing relationship with a provider right?

                But in at least 4 counties, there are no other Well Women providers aside from Planned Parenthood. This means women in these areas will be disproportionately impacted. Some may be able to travel to counties farther away to get care, but many will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. With nowhere convenient to go they will be less likely to catch health issues early because they will get care less frequently.

                Last year Planned Parenthood did 1260 screenings and found 15 cases of breast and cervical cancer in the 4 counties that are set to lose their sole provider. Had it not been for Planned Parenthood, those cases may have gone undiagnosed. According to a report from Mother Jones “The county health officers in two of those counties have already issued statements decrying the state for targeting Planned Parenthood for the cut and for risking the health of their residents. ‘If it’s not Planned Parenthood, then who’s going to coordinate? Where do women go?” Atkinson asks. “We don’t have any indication at this point.’”

                It is unconscionable politicians consistently put their political needs above the health and well-being of the women in their states all in the name of “protecting the unborn children.” What about the living, breathing, feeling, thinking women? What about the mothers and daughters, the sisters and wives, co-workers and friends. Why is their health less important than politics?

Abortion, Birth Control, Emergency Contraception, feminist policy, pregnancy, pro-choice

Siri and Abortion

So there has been some online buzz about how Siri (the personal assistant app on the new iPhone) handles issues related to women’s health. Apparently she can’t help you find any useful information. If you ask her where to get an abortion in NYC she tells you she can’t help you, if you ask her the same question in Washington D.C. she directs you to 2 CPC’s- one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania. This is in spite of the fact that multiple abortion clinics exist in both of these areas.

Many websites have noted this omission and many commenters’ have pointed out that if you ask Siri directly where is there a Planned Parenthood she is able to find them for you. This has many people deducing the problem is a programming error related to a lack of female programmers in the various stages of Siris development. The lack of female programmers means that Siri just didn’t get the information she needed to properly handle this type of question.

While I fully admit I am not a programmer and don’t know much about artificial intelligence; I can’t help but think that there is more to the story here than that. I say this because a writer in Pittsburgh decided to see how Siri responded to requests for abortion information in her city. Her general questions got much of the same responses that general questions in D.C. and NYC got- vague answers and a lack of real help; So she tried searching for the specific names of abortion clinics in her area: American Women’s Services and Allegheny Reproductive Health Center. She was unable to get results for either in spite of the fact that Google searches for both topics bring up numerous results. If this were a simple programming oversight that caused Siri to not understand how to respond to requests for abortions, abortions clinics or abortion centers; then why can’t she find specific businesses with online presences?

It isn’t just abortion she can’t help you with. She sends you to local Emergency Rooms if you ask her for emergency contraception and can’t get you anything at all if you ask her for Plan B or the Morning After Pill. She also fails to respond properly to request for help for rape victims. This is possibly the worst oversight because she when asked for rape resources all she says is “I didn’t find any sexual abuse treatment centers.” So she knows what rape is but is apparently incapable of searching for rape resources online.

I’m not the only person who feels these omissions are suspect; Perivision “An iPhone Centric Blog… Full of Tech Goodness” says this:

“I do believe its possible that this is just a glitch in the lexicon set, but given how well Siri and interpret other requests, AND that google and bing will give you the proper responses when doing a search, AND it offers CPC sites (thus it must understand the word abortion) this has to have been something placed in the code or taught to Siri by someone(s).  Also, ask it for planned parenthood, and it will find four places in San Francisco. Say, ‘I need an abortion’ and it will say it cannot find any abortion clinics.  As if those institutions were erased from the dataset.”

They understand far more about the tech side of this then I do so reading that just added to my curiosity. Many others have pointed out that even if it is an intentional oversight, it may not be that Apple had anything to do with or knows anything about as they didn’t develop Siri; they purchased the technology from its creators in 2010. Whether it is intentional or not what I am most curious about is how Apple will respond to it now that they know about it. And they must know about it… at least 3 writers on the topic reached out directly to Apple to see what they had to say though it seems no one has gotten a response yet.

What do you think? Is this all an omission based on a lack of female programmers or is there something deeper going on? I’d especially love to hear from anyone who has a deeper understanding of programming.

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

Arizona Consent Act

For those of you who don’t remember or haven’t read our previous entry on the topic, the Arizona Consent Act is an intrusive piece of legislation passed by the Arizona government back in 2009. It requires in person counseling 24 hours before having an abortion, notarized consent by parents of patients under 18 and allows only licensed physicians to perform abortions. Planned Parenthood sought and was granted an injunction against it; however an appeals court overturned the injunction by stating that placing “some burden” on people seeking abortions is totally acceptable in spite of constitutional rights to abortion. The regulations could not go into effect until Planned Parenthood decided if they would take the matter to the Arizona Supreme Court. They decided not to pursue an appeal at the state Supreme Court Level. On Monday of this week a Maricopa County Superior Court judge entered a court order that officially ends the petition against the regulations.

 The implementation of these regulations created an immediate shortage of qualified abortion providers. Nurse Practitioners and physician’s assistants have a similar rate of success and lack of complications, but since the Arizona courts felt this was irrelevant, they are now no longer able to provide abortion care. CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona is quoted as saying “One of the impacts of the ruling was the prohibition of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants from providing abortion care… At least at Planned Parenthood, about half of the abortion patients we were seeing were being seen by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants… they are no longer allowed to provide that care despite having done so for literally a decade with a safety record equal to that of a physician’s.”

In my opinion the worst part of this is still the required NOTARIZED parental consent forms. Many states have parental consent requirements and while I disagree with them on principle I can see why even advocates for pro-choice equality would support them; abortion can be a surgical procedure and surgery is a scary word.  What I cannot wrap my head around is requiring the parental consent forms to be notarized. As I am still unable to find any evidence to the contrary and have yet to be corrected, I can only conclude that notaries in Arizona are not bound by any kind of confidentiality laws. Given this fact, even the most staunchly pro-choice families would have to worry about stigma in granting their daughter permission to have an abortion because they have no way to know her private medical decisions would not be leaked to their community by the notary they went to. This should not ever be a concern, no matter what medical procedure you are having done. Be it a check up, appendectomy, breast reduction or abortion it is never anyone’s business aside from the patient and their doctor. It is appalling that this regulation was allowed to stand.