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The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion April 6, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
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Roger’s note: some years ago I attended an event designed to discuss the issue of choice with young people who were born after the Roe v. Wade decision.  A retired physician, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, spoke of his “conversion” to pro life while at the same time not abandoning his faith.  As a young Resident at LA County Hospital he worked on a ward with hundreds of beds for women with septic infections, 99% a result of botched back alley abortions.  That ward disappeared entirely once therapeutic abortion was decriminalized.  He said that from time to time nowadays he is called in to consult on a rare case of septic infection because today’s medical students and physicians almost never see them.  That will soon change in Texas and elsewhere in the United States.  Thanks to the misogynist Catholic Church hierarchy and the right to death bigots and their scumbag allies in state governments.

In 1969, when abortion was completely illegal in Texas except to save a woman’s life, Karen Hulsey became pregnant.

She was 20 years old and living in Dallas at the time, and the diaphragm she was using for birth control had failed her. Her boyfriend, she discovered, was married, and refused to help raise or pay for a child.

“It was just at a time in my life where I knew I couldn’t take care of a child, and he wanted no responsibility,” Hulsey recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Instead, the man offered to pay for her to travel to Mexico, where he knew of a clandestine abortion provider. She wrestled with the decision and was three months pregnant by the time she agreed to go.

“I was not only very afraid of the ramifications with God, but very ashamed and embarrassed,” said Hulsey, who was raised Catholic. “I struggled with the decision for a long time.”

Hulsey left Dallas at midnight on a chartered plane, with no idea where she was going, and landed in a field south of the border in the middle of the night. A woman Hulsey had never met before was waiting for her when she stepped off the aircraft.

“I was scared to death,” Hulsey said. “Of course, he did not go with me — I went alone,” she said of her boyfriend at the time. “That was the stipulation.”

From there, things only got worse.

“A car came and picked us up and took us to what was considered a clinic in a little bitty building with dirt floors,” Hulsey recalled. “Even at that age, I knew this was not a good thing. I had worked as a nurse’s aide at that point in my life, and I knew about sterilization and everything else, so this just mounted my anxiety and fears.”

Hulsey said the doctor put her feet in stirrups and performed a “very rough,” painful gynecological exam. He then sedated her for the abortion procedure.

When Hulsey began to wake up, she realized that the doctor was raping her.

“I was of course very drowsy, and the doctor was on top of me having sex with me,” she recalled. “I had just barely opened my eyes, and he was all involved in what he was doing, and I immediately closed my eyes, because I knew if I acted like I knew what was going on I’d probably get killed, never to be seen or heard of again.”

After the man finished assaulting her, Hulsey said she cautiously opened her eyes.

“I went ahead after a little bit of time and acted like I was coming out from under the anesthetic, and he told me I’d had a little boy,” Hulsey said, choking back tears. “I was given a Kotex and taken back to Texas with no further care.”

Hulsey discovered upon returning to Texas that she had not completely expelled the placenta — a possible complication of surgical abortion. She was rushed to the emergency room, hemorrhaging from the botched procedure.

Years down the road, when she was ready to have children, she had three miscarriages due to the damage the illegal abortion provider had caused to her cervix. She underwent surgery to make it possible for her to hold a baby inside her body, and even then, her daughter was born two months premature and weighed less than three pounds.

“I thought that I had sinned and was being punished for having gone to Mexico and done that, and that’s why I had a baby that was so sick,” said Hulsey. “I think that’s baloney now, and that’s why I’m willing to talk about it.”

Four years after Hulsey’s ordeal, Texas became the original battleground state in the fight for legal and safe abortion. The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade arose out of a challenge to the Texas law that criminalized the procedure except to save a woman’s life. Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade defended the abortion ban against a 21-year-old pregnant woman using the pseudonym “Jane Roe.” Roe had tried to obtain an illegal abortion near Dallas, where she lived at at the time, but found that authorities had already raided and shut down the clandestine providers nearby.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that states must make abortion legal at least until the fetus is viable, around 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, estimates that before Roe, as many as 1.2 million women a year in the U.S. resorted to primitive, self-induced abortions or sought out illegal, amateur providers. Thousands of women ended up in hospitals each year with severe complications related to illegal abortions, and in 1965 alone, nearly 200 women died from those procedures.

The proliferation of well-trained, regulated, legal abortion doctors in the last 40 years has led to “dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death,” according to the National Abortion Federation.

Now, however, Texas and other states are reversing course. State lawmakers enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the previous decade, a trend that appears likely to continue in 2014. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly 300 anti-abortion bills are currently pending in state legislatures.

The new restrictions have had a significant impact on women’s access to abortion. A Huffington Post survey last year found that since 2010, at least 54 abortion providers across 27 states had either closed or stopped performing the procedure. Sixteen more shut their doors after Texas lawmakers passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country last summer. A federal appeals court upheld two of the new restrictions in a ruling last week.

As a result, researchers and women’s health advocates say, women today are resorting to many of the same dangerous methods they relied on in the pre-Roe era: seeking out illegal abortion providers, as Karen Hulsey did, or attempting risky self-abortion procedures.

In 2014, four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, pregnant women once again find themselves crossing the border to Mexico and haunting back-alleys in search of medical care.

 

Pedestrians walk past discount pharmacies in Nogales, Mexico, June 17, 2006. Today, women from the U.S. cross the border to Mexico to purchase misoprostol, a drug that can induce abortions. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The situation is particularly dire in Texas. In 2011, the state had 44 abortion clinics, but more than half of them have since shuttered due to new anti-abortion laws. In September, when a state law requiring all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers goes into effect, reproductive rights advocates expect 14 more clinics will have to close, leaving only six facilities to serve the nearly 75,000 women who seek abortions in Texas each year.

The poorest area of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border, has no remaining abortion clinics. Women who live there have to drive roughly 240 miles to San Antonio for the nearest clinic, but many of them are Mexican immigrants with restrictions on their work visas that prevent them from traveling that far.

In addition, the state has slashed funding for family planning, forcing 76 clinics that offer birth control and other reproductive health services but do not perform abortions to shut down.

“It’s a horrible natural experiment that is taking place in Texas, where we are going to see what happens in 2014 when U.S. women don’t have access to legal, safe abortion,” said Dan Grossman, vice president of research for Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit.

Anti-abortion advocates say the idea of back-alley abortions returning is just a scare tactic their opponents use to try to keep abortion legal.

“That is a statement that’s been purported by those who are anti-life, but in actuality, we haven’t seen any evidence of that taking place here,” said Melissa Conway, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life.

But Grossman, who is part of a research team that is currently studying the effects of the new abortion laws and family planning cuts in Texas, said he is already witnessing the consequences of the new restrictions.

“It seems like [women] are becoming more desperate to find an option,” he said. “We’ve heard reports of women taking herbs or other substances, or intentionally getting punched in the stomach or beaten up — the same kinds of things they did before abortion was legal.”

Ironically, in the years following Roe v. Wade, Texas had been a beacon of hope for Mexican women seeking abortions, since the procedure is illegal in most of Mexico.

“Texas has always been a place where people in Mexico came to get safe abortions,” said Lindsay Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, which helps women in need pay for abortions in Texas. Now, she said, “traffic’s going to start going the other way.”

Indeed, the lack of abortion access in Texas is already pushing pregnant women back across the border. At Mexican pharmacies, they can purchase misoprostol, a drug with the labeled use of preventing gastric ulcers — but which can also induce abortions.

In the U.S., misoprostol is available only by prescription from a licensed abortion provider. The drug, first manufactured by Pfizer under the name Cytotec, is prescribed in combination with another medication, mifepristone (labeled RU-486), for abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. The FDA has approved this combination of drugs for medically induced abortions in the first trimester, which account for almost a quarter of all non-hospital abortions in the U.S. each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The medications are extremely safe and more than 90 percent effective when taken together.

American women are learning that if they don’t have access to an abortion provider, they can obtain misoprostol illegally and take a high dose of it on its own to end a pregnancy. The drug is 75 to 85 percent effective in completing an abortion when taken properly up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, according to Ibis Reproductive Health, but it is relatively complicated to self-administer. A woman has to put 12 pills under her tongue in specific time-intervals, and she needs to have access to follow-up care in case she has complications or the pills don’t work.

“I’ve seen women who have used 50 pills all at one time,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Women’s Health, a network of abortion clinics in Texas. “They put them in every orifice of their body, because they had no idea how to use it. That’s the scary part — using any means necessary to self-induce.”

Taking misoprostol under the wrong circumstances and without medical supervision, doctors and women’s health advocates warn, can lead to life-threatening complications. A woman who takes the pill with an ectopic pregnancy, for instance, risks heavy internal bleeding due to rupturing of the fallopian tube. If a pregnancy does not pass completely, meanwhile, women run the risk of infection, fever and sepsis.

“Those are the major complications we’re going to be seeing in these communities without clinics,” Miller warned. Hemorrhaging and infection, if not properly treated, can lead to death.

Still, misoprostol is generally considered a safer and more palatable alternative to more primitive methods of self-abortions, and demand is quickly increasing among women living in areas where abortion is illegal or impossible to access. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and founder of Women on Web, a digital community of abortion rights supporters, has published instructions on her website teaching women to take misoprostol properly on their own. She told HuffPost that her team regularly receives calls from women all over the U.S. seeking information about where to find the drug.

“In the United States there are import restrictions on abortion medications, so we just need to help women get access to them,” she said in a phone interview. “Sometimes that means we refer them over the border to Mexico.”

The trip across the border is often risky for women because of heavy drug cartel activity on the highways. And Mexican pharmacies have capitalized on the growing demand for misoprostol by marking up the cost to $200 or $300 per box.

Women in the U.S. can also obtain the pills illegally at flea markets in South Texas, or for about $100 a box over the internet, but Gomperts said the black market is awash in dubious drugs masquerading as misoprostol.

“There are a lot of fake websites out there, and there are a lot of people who take advantage of women’s desperate need,” she said.

Women who try to obtain the pills illegally, either online or on the black market, also run the risk of getting arrested. What’s more, women in the Rio Grande Valley who have obtained the pills are too afraid to share their stories, even anonymously, because they don’t want the police to crack down on the places that sell them.

“When the media first covered the flea market, it got raided by police and people got arrested,” Miller said. “When people start to cover this stuff, then the women can’t even get black market abortions. The culture in [South Texas] is one of extreme fear and caution — the women are so afraid of being put in jail.”

Women outside of Texas face the same obstacles. Jennifer Whalen, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania mother, was charged with a felony in December after she ordered a package of misoprostol and mifeprestone online from an overseas pharmacy for her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Abortion is difficult to access in Pennsylvania due to severe restrictions on clinics there, and the closest clinic to Whalen’s town was across state lines in New York.

Whalen was charged with one count of medical consultation and judgment after her daughter had to go to the emergency room to be treated for an incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection.

“We know that prohibition and criminalization will never stop women from having abortions,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Illegal, self-abortions are a form of civil disobedience. Women will violate unjust laws and bear the health risks and the legal consequences, without causing harm to the people or institutions that make their decisions criminal.”

In addition to pushing women across the border into Mexico in search of misoprostol or other abortion solutions, the dwindling number of clinics in Texas and elsewhere has also revived the concept of “miscarriage management” — an idea that similarly harkens back to pre-Roe days, when doctors would quietly tell women to figure out a way to induce their own miscarriages so that they could legally intervene to treat the bleeding.

The New Republic reported that one of the last remaining abortion providers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Lester Minto, resorted to the idea of “miscarriage management” when a law went into effect in November that prohibited him from providing abortions. Minto offered treatment to women who had already started their own miscarriages for $400, lab work and ultrasound included. The visit would last two to three hours at most.

“Nothing here is back alley,” Minto told the magazine. “We do follow-ups with everybody. We still treat them just like we always did.”

But even Minto’s practice is now closed, leaving women few options for follow-up care when they try to self-abort in the Rio Grande Valley. The treatment Minto was providing would cost $2,000 to $3,000 in a hospital, require a general anesthetic and take up an entire day, Miller told HuffPost, which is out of reach for many poor and uninsured women.

With so many doors closed to them, back-alley remedies may soon be all that are left for many women.

“The situation politicians have put women in right now is untenable,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Making abortion out of reach only pushes women into the shadows.”

Karen Hulsey is particularly concerned about the situation facing women today. For five years in the 1990s, she worked as a physician’s assistant at an abortion clinic in Brownwood, Texas. There, she helped treat Mexican immigrants who had had traumatizing experiences similar to what she herself went through in 1969.

“I saw the effects of abortions on girls in Mexico who were raped, and the results of those abortions, as far as the shape of their vagina and their cervix,” she said. “It was just abhorrent, the scarring from the methods that were being used. I would not be surprised if the same thing were going on today.”

Hulsey, now 65, retired in 2000 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors said she developed after her abortion and rape in Mexico. Although she has two children now, she said she has had trouble holding down a healthy romantic relationship because of what she went through.

Now that Texas lawmakers are spending so much time trying to limit access to abortion, she said, she is reminded of her trauma constantly.

“There are very few weeks that I don’t think about the severity of what I went through, especially with it being so up front in the news right now,” she said. “Every time anything like that comes up, I think, ‘Oh you people just don’t have any idea what you’re doing. No clue what you’d be sending girls back to.'”

Reproductive rights advocates rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Henry Wade’s position at the time of the suit as Texas attorney general; he was district attorney for Dallas County.

In Arizona, Life Somehow Begins Two Weeks Before Conception. Don’t Ask. April 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Arizona, Health, Women.
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04.13.12 – 1:08 PM, www.commondreams.org

by Abby Zimet

Proving definitively that Arizona is the worst place in the country to be a woman, or even a biped, Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law three extreme anti-abortion measures including a so-called “egg drop” bill that effectively bans abortion after 18 weeks, except in cases of medical emergency, by redefining pregnancy as beginning two weeks before conception. Also under the richly named Women’s Health and Safety Act, schools and the state must promote adoption and birth as the best outcome for an unwanted pregnancy, in part by displaying images of fetuses. And clinics must have signs warning against abortion “coercion” – all this, in the name of  “protecting women from the serious health and safety risks of abortion.” We’re speechless.

How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis August 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Racism, Right Wing, Women.
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Roger’s note: we shouldn’t, of course, take the title of this article literally.  However, it does give us a fairly clear picture of how the manipulation of misogynist and racist hatred by the lunatic Right has advanced the objectives of the military-industrial complex (which the article does not mention  by name).  The only reservation I have about the article is that it sort of lets the Democratic Party’s complicity off the hook.
Published on Monday, August 1, 2011 by RH Reality Check

Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters.  Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer).  Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse.  There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.

Tea Party

Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights.  If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics.  But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis.

Despite the recent coinage of the term “Tea Party,” what we call the Tea Party has been around under different names forever.  It’s basically right-wing populism, and has been the thorn in the side of democracies for at least the past century.  The modern form of it in the United States really formed in the sixties, in response to two major social changes: desegregation and the sexual revolution/feminism. (Yes, I realize feminism and the sexual revolution are separate things, but for the right-wing, they may as well be one thing, since it’s women’s sexual liberation that really gets them going.)  You had this huge group of socially conservative people who were wound up about these social changes, but not a lot of direction for their anger and hate.  Outside of glowering at Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King Jr., what are you supposed to do to stop widespread social change? They needed direction.

The genius of conservative leadership was that they were able to take all this anger about sexual freedom and desegregation and put the blame on two enemies: Democrats and the federal government.  Democrats were blamed for society getting “out of control” and the federal government’s role in enforcing women’s rights and desegregation made them an easy target.  Once these villains were established, all this right-wing populist anger could be pointed towards generic goals of big business Republicans.  If you hate the federal government for enforcing the Civil Rights Act, it’s easy enough to start hating them for levying taxes, especially if you can be convinced those taxes are going to welfare to pay for what you believe is immoral behavior, such as single motherhood.  If you hate the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade, it’s easy to get you to support putting more conservative justices up there who will routinely vote for business interests.

The theory is that the Republican Party basically exploited right-wing populist anger and used it towards their economic, corporatist ends.  This is a non-controversial statement, and is the thesis behind Thomas Frank’s famous book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, in which he wrote:

“Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically-correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.”

A lot of people, including myself, have been critical of Frank’s cynicism in this formulation, arguing that the leadership actually delivers more on right-wing populist demands than Frank gives them credit for doing.

But what we didn’t argue with was the basic premise that there’s two kinds of conservatives: right-wing populists and country club Republicans, and while liberals may not much like the latter, we at least had the reassurance that they’re not crazy.  Country club Republicans may want less regulation and lower taxes, but they don’t actually believe that federal power is illegitimate, or that liberals are motivated by Satanic forces and therefore can be treated as always wrong.  For the past few decades, the leadership of the Republican Party was able to work with Democrats on commonsense governance such as raising the debt ceiling, precisely because they didn’t believe the wild-eyed rantings from right wing talk radio about how Democrats and the federal government are pure evil.  (And the legality of abortion is example #1 in the right wing pantheon of reasons to believe the federal government is evil.)

What I think Frank and those of us who were mildly critical of him failed to grasp is the right-wing populist beast may not be within the control of the Republican Party forever, and that the populists may become a large enough group of people that they could take over the party and make their obsessions—the evils of sexual liberation, the end of the federal government as we know it—the actual priorities of the Republican Party. They very nearly brought a real end to our country as we know it, defying what what Wall Street wanted, and a major reason is that the populist caucus in the party is more interested in ideological purity than doing simply following the lead of Wall Street.

I suppose it should have been easy enough to see coming: for decades, a constant stream of propaganda about the evils of federal power, abortion rights, affirmative action, social spending, multi-culturalism, gay rights and other right wing bogeymen has energized the base to keep voting and giving money and running for office.  At a certain point, the populists would have enough power to change the rules of the game.  This crisis was averted, but we should not forget the important lesson learned here.  The constant feeding of the paranoid, sexually and racially panicked right wing extremist imagination does not come without consequences.  In the past, the mainstream media could downplay this because the major victims didn’t have a lot of privilege or power. But increasingly, it looks like the victims could be all of us.

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Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte blogs every day at Pandagon.net, and contributes a weekly podcast to RH Reality Check. She lives in Austin, TX with her two cats, boyfriend, and environmentally correct commuter bicycle.

If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would Be A Sacrament June 6, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Right Wing, Women.
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Abortion Foes Capitalize on Health Care Law May 16, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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(Roger’s note: thank you, again, President Obama, for your progressive health care legislation.)
Published on Sunday, May 16, 2010 by The Associated Pressby Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

Abortion opponents fought passage of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul to the bitter end, and now that it’s the law, they’re using it to limit coverage by private insurers.

[ Gerald Herbert / AP  FILE - In this March 21, 2010, file photo President Barack Obama speaks to the nation following the final vote in the House of Representatives for comprehensive health care legislation in the East Room of the White House. Obama and Democratic House leaders resolved a dispute over abortion earlier that Sunday, securing crucial support from a handful of lawmakers.]
Gerald Herbert / APFILE – In this March 21, 2010, file photo President Barack Obama speaks to the nation following the final vote in the House of Representatives for comprehensive health care legislation in the East Room of the White House. Obama and Democratic House leaders resolved a dispute over abortion earlier that Sunday, securing crucial support from a handful of lawmakers.

An obscure part of the law allows states to restrict abortion coverage by private plans operating in new insurance markets. Capitalizing on that language, abortion foes have succeeded in passing bans that, in some cases, go beyond federal statutes. 

“We don’t consider elective abortion to be health care, so we don’t think it’s a bad thing for fewer private insurance companies to cover it,” said Mary Harned, attorney for Americans United for Life, a national organization that wrote a model law for the states.

Abortion rights supporters are dismayed.

“Implementation of this reform should be about increasing access to health care and increasing choices, not taking them away,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate leadership. “Health care reform is not an excuse to take rights away from women.”

Since Obama signed the legislation law March 23, Arizona and Tennessee have enacted laws restricting abortion coverage by health plans in new insurance markets, called exchanges. About 30 million people will get their coverage through exchanges, which open in 2014 to serve individuals and small businesses.

In Florida, Mississippi and Missouri, lawmakers have passed bans and sent them to their governors. Most of the states allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Insurers still could offer separate policies to specifically cover abortion.

Three other states may act this year – Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma. Overall, there are 29 states where lawmakers or public policy groups expressed serious interest, Harned said.

“You are going to see more actions like this,” said Tom McClusky, a lobbyist for the socially conservative Family Research Council. “This is not something we are just going to let fall by the wayside.”

Before the overhaul became law, five states had limits on private insurance coverage of abortion – Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma. Abortion rights supporters are concerned that the list is growing as a result of the new federal law.

Murray had joined in voting down a federal abortion coverage ban when the Senate debated health care last year. Now she and other abortion rights supporters worry the same sorts of restrictions could spread from state to state.

“It’s really going to be a patchwork of state laws by the time these exchanges are set up,” said Jessica Arons, director of women’s health at the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy institute.

Most private health insurance plans cover abortion as a legal medical procedure, but research indicates many women opt to pay directly.

The federal law allows private insurance plans in the exchanges to cover abortion as long as they collect a separate premium. That money must remain apart from public subsidies available to help pay insurance premiums for most customers in the exchanges.

That compromise split abortion foes in Congress and around the country. Anti-abortion organizations including National Right to Life and the U.S. Catholic bishops called it a fig leaf, and continued to oppose the legislation. But Catholic hospitals and many religious orders of nuns supported it.

Abortion rights supporters were cool to the compromise, but it broke a political deadlock threatening the bill.

Anti-abortion Democrats in the House cast critical votes for the legislation after Obama also agreed to an executive order affirming long-standing federal policy against the use of taxpayer funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother – known as the Hyde amendment.

Tennessee already has enacted a far stricter ban, with no exceptions. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who allowed it to become law without his signature, said in a statement it “creates a prohibition much broader than that found in current law and could unintentionally negatively impact the quality of health care options for Tennesseans.”

All eyes are now on Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist will decide soon whether to sign a bill that restricts abortion coverage in that state’s insurance exchange. Florida is a politically diverse state, not known as a bedrock of social conservatism. Crist is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent, after it became clear that he would lose the Republican primary to former state Rep. Marco Rubio.

Crist, who opposes abortion, has indicated he has problems with a part of the bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of the embryo.

“Florida has always been pretty much of a middle-of-the road state,” said Stephanie Kunkel, executive director of Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in the state. “If Florida passes it, it really open up more moderate states to passing these bans.”

Conservatives say they won’t forgive a Crist veto. “You can count him as done if he vetoes this bill before him now,” said McClusky of the Family Research Council.

© 2010 The Associated Press

Utah Bill Reduces Women to Incubators March 17, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Health, Women.
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Published on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

It’s already hard to get an abortion in Utah. Now a new bill opens the door to prosecuting women who ‘intentionally’ miscarry

by Melissa McEwan

Last week, Utah governor Gary Herbert signed into law Utah HB 462, known ignominiously as “the miscarriage bill”. It was a reworked version of the original bill, introduced by Republican State Representative Carl D Wimmer, adjusted to address criticisms that the initial language “could have got women sent away for lifelong prison terms for falling down stairs or staying in an abusive relationship”. The revised version “designates the ‘intentional or knowing’ miscarriage as criminal homicide” and “stipulates that a woman can be charged with homicide for ‘the death of her unborn child’, unless the death qualifies as legal abortion”.

Thus are the women of Utah left with a new law that criminalises illegal abortion in a state that increasingly discourages legal abortions.

Utah already requires parental notification and consent for minors seeking abortions, mandates a 24-hour waiting period to terminate a pregnancy, subjects women seeking abortions to state-directed counselling which overtly discourages abortion, and allows public funding for terminations only in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or threat to the women’s life or physical health. (Don’t think you can get away with claiming your psychological health is at risk, ladies! Everyone knows that women would just lie about that to get an abortion because there’s nothing conceivably traumatising about being forced to carry a pregnancy you don’t want to term.)

As of 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 93% of Utah counties had no abortion provider, leaving 25% of women in the state to travel at least 50 miles, and 8% to travel more than 100 miles, to get an abortion. There were six abortion providers in the whole of the state in 2005, and currently the state has only one licensed abortion clinic.

Utah has become, like many other states, a frontline in the war against legal abortion. Yes, Roe is still in place, but anti-abortion activists are battling to render it an impotent and largely symbolic statute, hollowed out by state legislation that chips away at abortion rights with “partial-birth abortion bans” and “parental consent laws” and mandatory (ostensible) disincentives like “look at your foetus on an ultrasound”.

The Democrats, and the leftwing activists who try to use the spectre of a world without Roe to coerce progressive feminists into line during every election, tend to regard legal abortion like an on-off switch, but it doesn’t work that way. Legal abortion is only worth as much as the number of women who have reasonable and affordable and unencumbered access to it, and that number is dwindling: the National Abortion Federation reports that 88% of counties in the US have no identifiable abortion provider – a figure that rises to 97% in non-metropolitan areas.

That’s not merely an inconvenience – between travel expenses and time off work, especially when a 24-hour waiting period necessitates at least two days of one’s time, the cost of securing an abortion can become an undue burden. It can put legal abortion out of a woman’s reach.

That’s what state legislatures like Utah’s are hoping. And because even the most publicly mendacious anti-choice activists know that even criminalising abortion doesn’t stop women from getting them, they know that merely restricting access to legal abortion isn’t enough – a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant will find a way to not be pregnant.

Thus is their current strategy is to make legal abortion as inaccessible as possible and criminalise everything else. An abortion performed by someone other than a doctor is ergo illegal. An abortion performed on a minor without parental consent, or on an adult without state-mandated counselling and a 24-hour waiting period, is ergo illegal. An abortion late in the pregnancy is ergo illegal. Inducing a miscarriage is ergo illegal. Terminating a pregnancy by any other method than the one which has been most ruthlessly restricted – via piecemeal legislation and the defunding of clinics and the unfettered terrorising of abortion providers – is illegal.

In Utah, women still have a technical legal right to abortion, but very little means to exercise that right.

And now, in pursuit of ensuring that women’s right to abortion is as limited as possible, the state has opened the door to prosecuting women who miscarry after having a drink of caffeinated coffee or a beer or a cigarette, or take a vigorous walk, or miss a prenatal care appointment, or shoot up heroin, or go to spinning class, or any one of a number of things that pregnant women do every day, good and bad, during pregnancies that come to term, if there’s someone who will testify she did it to miscarry; she was trying to miscarry; she told me.

In pursuit of ensuring that women’s right to abortion is as limited, the state has conferred personhood on foetuses, and reduced women to incubators. And watch out if the machinery breaks.

The architects of this legislation insist it was not designed to punish women, but to protect the unborn. Somehow I don’t find that comforting, coming from the same lot who won’t properly fund childhood education or support universal healthcare. Or any other legislation that would make a material difference in the lives of the born.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

Melissa McEwan is a freelance writer and founder of the progressive blog Shakespeare’s Sister

Pro-Single-Payer Physicians Call for Defeat of Senate Health Bill December 22, 2009

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Published on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 by CommonDreams.orgby Physicians for National Health Program

WASHINGTON – A national organization of 17,000 physicians who favor a single-payer health care system called on the U.S. Senate today to defeat the health care legislation presently before it and to immediately consider the adoption of an expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program.While noting that the Senate bill includes some “salutary provisions” like an expansion of Medicaid, increased funding for community clinics and the curbing of some of the worst practices of the private insurance industry, the group says the negatives in the bill outweigh the positives.

[While noting that the Senate bill includes some “salutary provisions” like an expansion of Medicaid, increased funding for community clinics and the curbing of some of the worst practices of the private insurance industry, the group says the negatives in the bill outweigh the positives.]
While noting that the Senate bill includes some “salutary provisions” like an expansion of Medicaid, increased funding for community clinics and the curbing of some of the worst practices of the private insurance industry, the group says the negatives in the bill outweigh the positives.

The negatives, the group says, include the individual mandate requiring that people buy private insurance policies, large government subsidies to private insurers, new restrictions on abortion, the unfair taxing of high-cost health plans, and cuts of $43 billion in Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals. Moreover, at least 23 million people will remain uninsured when the plan finally takes effect, they said. 

“We have concluded that the Senate bill’s passage would bring more harm than good,” the group said in a statement signed by its president, Dr. Oliver Fein, and two co-founders, Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler.

Addressing the Senate in an open letter, they write: “We ask that you defeat the bill currently under debate, and immediately move to consider the single-payer approach – an expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program – which prioritizes the advancement of our nation’s health over the enhancement of private, profit-seeking interests.”

The full statement appears below.

To the Members of the U.S. Senate:

It is with great sadness that we urge you to vote against the health care reform legislation now before you. As physicians, we are acutely aware of the unnecessary suffering that our nation’s broken health care financing system inflicts on our patients. We make no common cause with the Republicans’ obstructionist tactics or alarmist rhetoric. However, we have concluded that the Senate bill’s passage would bring more harm than good.

We are fully cognizant of the salutary provisions included in the legislation, notably an expansion of Medicaid coverage, increased funds for community clinics and regulations to curtail some of private insurers’ most egregious practices. Yet these are outweighed by its central provisions – particularly the individual mandate – that would reinforce private insurers’ stranglehold on care. Those who dislike their current employer-sponsored coverage would be forced to keep it. Those without insurance would be forced to pay private insurers’ inflated premiums, often for coverage so skimpy that serious illness would bankrupt them. And the $476 billion in new public funds for premium subsidies would all go to insurance firms, buttressing their financial and political power, and rendering future reform all the more difficult.

Some paint the Senate bill as a flawed first step to reform that will be improved over time, citing historical examples such as Social Security. But where Social Security established the nidus of a public institution that grew over time, the Senate bill proscribes any such new public institution. Instead, it channels vast new resources – including funds diverted from Medicare – into the very private insurers who caused today’s health care crisis. Social Security’s first step was not a mandate that payroll taxes which fund pensions be turned over to Goldman Sachs!

While the fortification of private insurers is the most malignant aspect of the bill, several other provisions threaten harm to vulnerable patients, including:

  • The bill’s anti-abortion provisions would restrict reproductive choice, compromising the health of women and adolescent girls.
  • The new 40 percent tax on high-cost health plans – deceptively labeled a “Cadillac tax” – would hit many middle-income families. The costs of group insurance are driven largely by regional health costs and the demography of the covered group. Hence, the tax targets workers in firms that employ more women (whose costs of care are higher than men’s), and older and sicker employees, particularly those in high-cost regions such as Maine and New York.
  • The bill would drain $43 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the 23 million who will remain uninsured even if the bill works as planned. These threatened hospitals are also a key resource for emergency care, mental health care and other services that are unprofitable for hospitals under current payment regimes. In many communities, severely ill patients will be left with no place to go – a human rights abuse.
  • The bill would leave hundreds of millions of Americans with inadequate insurance – an “actuarial value” as low as 60 percent of actual health costs. Predictably, as health costs continue to grow, more families will face co-payments and deductibles so high that they preclude adequate access to care. Such coverage is more akin to a hospital gown than to a warm winter coat.

Congress’ capitulation to insurers – along with concessions to the pharmaceutical industry – fatally undermines the economic viability of reform. The bill would inflate the already crushing burden of insurance-related paperwork that currently siphons $400 billion from care annually. According to CMS’ own projections, the bill will cause U.S. health costs to increase even more rapidly than presently, and budget neutrality is to be achieved by draining funds from Medicare and an accounting trick – front-loading the new revenues while delaying most new coverage until 2014. As homeowners seduced into balloon mortgages have learned, pushing costs off to the future is neither prudent nor sustainable.

We ask that you defeat the bill currently under debate, and immediately move to consider the single-payer approach – an expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program – which prioritizes the advancement of our nation’s health over the enhancement of private, profit-seeking interests.

Oliver Fein, M.D., President
David U. Himmelstein, M.D., Co-founder
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., Co-founder
Physicians for a National Health Program

Time for Men to Make a Sacrifice November 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Women.
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Published on Saturday, November 14, 2009 by The Nation


Women are being asked to shut up and accept the ban on abortion funding in the US healthcare reform bill. We won’t

by Katha Pollitt

You know what I don’t want to hear right now about the Stupak-Pitts amendment banning abortion coverage from federally subsidised health insurance policies? That it’s the price of reform, and pro-choice women should shut up and take one for the team.

“If you want to rebuild the American welfare state,” Peter Beinart writes in the Daily Beast, “there is no alternative” than for Democrats to abandon “cultural” issues like gender and racial equality. Hey, Peter, Representative Stupak and your 64 Democratic supporters, Jim Wallis and other anti-choice “progressive” Christians, men: Why don’t you take one for the team for a change and see how you like it?

For example, budget hawks in Congress say they’ll vote against the bill because it’s too expensive. Maybe you could win them over if you volunteered to cut out funding for male-exclusive stuff, like prostate cancer, Viagra, male infertility, vasectomies, growth-hormone shots for short little boys, long-term care for macho guys who won’t wear motorcycle helmets and, I dunno, psychotherapy for pedophile priests. Men could always pay in advance for an insurance policy rider, as women are blithely told they can do if Stupak becomes part of the final bill.

Barack Obama, too, worries about the deficit. Maybe you could help him out by sacrificing your denomination’s tax exemption. The Catholic church would be a good place to start, and it wouldn’t even be unfair, since the blatant politicking of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on abortion violates the spirit of the ban on electoral meddling by tax-exempt religious institutions.

Why should anti-choicers be the only people who get to refuse to let their taxes support something they dislike? You don’t want your tax dollars to pay, even in the most notional way, for women’s abortion care, a legal medical procedure that one in three American women will have in her lifetime? I don’t want to pay for your misogynist fairy tales and sour-old-man hierarchies.

Women Democrats have taken an awful lot of hits for the team lately. Many of us didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary because the goal of electing a woman seemed less important than the goal of electing the best possible president. Only a self-hater or a featherhead didn’t feel some pain about that. And although women are hardly alone in this, we’ve seen some pretty big hopes set aside in the first year of the Obama administration.

The Paycheque Fairness Act, which would expand women’s protections against sexism in the workplace, is on the back burner. Meanwhile, the Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships is not only alive and well. It’s newly staffed with anti-choicers like Alexia Kelley of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which, as Frances Kissling notes in Salon, has compared abortion to torture.

I know what you’re thinking: conservative Democrats like Stupak took Republican districts to win us both houses of Congress. Thanks a lot, Howard Dean, whose bright idea it was to recruit them. But those majorities would not be there, and Obama would not be in the White House, if not for pro-choice women and men – their votes, talent, money, organisational capacity and shoe leather.

We knocked ourselves out, and it wasn’t so that religious reactionaries like Stupak – who, as Jeff Sharlet writes in Salon, is a member of the Family, the secretive rightwing Christian-supremacist congressional coven – would control both parties. Elections have consequences, you say? Exactly: Obama, the pro-choice, pro-woman candidate, won. Stupak didn’t put him in the White House, and neither did the Catholic bishops or the white anti-feminist welfare staters of Beinart’s imagination.

We did. And we deserve better from Obama than sound bites like “this is a healthcare bill, not an abortion bill“. Abortion is healthcare. That’s the whole point.

What makes the Stupak fiasco especially pathetic is the fumbling response from pro-choicers. Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill would not be in the Senate today were it not for pro-choice and feminist supporters like Emily’s List. How does she thank us? By telling Joe Scarborough that Stupak isn’t so bad, that it won’t affect “the majority of America” – just low-income women – and that it’s “an example of having to govern with moderates.”

So people who’ll tip healthcare reform into the trash unless it blocks abortion access are the moderates now! (McCaskill took it back later, but the damage was done.) If I ever give that woman another dime, shoot me.

The big pro-choice and feminist organisations are up in arms – Now and Planned Parenthood want to see healthcare reform voted down if Stupak is retained – but writing in the Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein nicely captures the bewilderment of leaders caught by surprise. “It’s the feeling that you’ve been rolled,” said Eleanor Smeal, of Feminist Majority. Or haven’t been paying attention.

Smeal was onto something, though, when she told Goldstein: “Here we are playing nice guy again, we didn’t want to make a fuss.” Consciously or unconsciously, by not organising in advance to insist on coverage of abortion, pro-choicers set themselves up to be out-manoeuvred. In fact, as Sharon Lerner reported on TheNation.com, Democrats stood by while anti-choicers kept contraception out of the reform bill’s list of basic benefits all insurers must cover. So much for the “common ground” approach where we all agree that birth control is the way to lower the abortion rate.

Enough already. Pro-choicers have been taking one for the team since 1976, when Congress passed the Hyde amendment, which Jimmy Carter would later defend with the immortal comment: “There are many things in life that are not fair.” Time for the theocrats and male chauvinists to give something up for the greater good – to say nothing of the 20 pro-choicers, all men, who supported Stupak out of sheer careerism.

After all, if it weren’t for pro-choicers, there wouldn’t be much of a team for them to play on.

© 2009 The Nation

George Tiller, A Hero for People Who Care About the Humanity of Women June 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Right Wing, Women.
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george tiller

by Debra Sweet (Posted by Elaine Brower)  

www.opednews.com, June 1, 2009

A hero who wore a button saying “Trust Women,” was shot down and killed today, in a devastating attack on the right of women to control our own bodies.  Dr. George Tiller began providing abortion care in 1973, as soon as it was legal in Kansas, and continued until yesterday.  He endured, and rose above, the constant picketers of his clinic and home; the vandalism; the baseless lawsuits and political/legal trials.  He survived being shot by another anti-abortion would-be assassin in 1993.  He gave compassionate care to thousands of women, and mentored colleagues and medical students, and was a source of last resort for women with fetal/maternal complications in his Wichita, Kansas clinic.

George’s murder is a heavy, almost unbearable blow, and not only for his family and friends, who deserve our deep gratitude for supporting him in his life’s work. 

A wonderful person by all accounts, he is not at this time replaceable as a highly skilled teacher and courageous physician who knowingly took the risks he did to do what we believed in.  The anti-abortion movement, from its origins with “abortion is murder” in the 1970’s, through the clinic-bombing 1980’s, and the murderous attacks of the 1990’s, has successfully shrunk the ranks of doctors and hospitals who are willing to risk providing abortions.  They’ve poisoned the minds of a generation of women, permeating them with feelings of shame over unwanted pregnancies and for having the audacity to want to control when and if they bear children.

Having been nose to nose with anti-abortion leaders in front of clinics, and sometimes between them and doctors, for decades, I know them as the active base of a deeply dangerous, Christian theocratic, and fascist movement.  They believe, as Randall Terry screamed in my face in 1987, that women must be kept subservient to men.  Their god is a vengeful god, they remind us, and we deserve death for not obeying him.

They’ve got the scripture, memorized from both the Old Testament and the New, and the worldview to enforce that male supremacy in their homes and in their movement.

They believe that this country’s laws should be based on their interpretation of their God’s law, so you, too, would have no choice in the matter.  And they want to kill us; the women who aren’t subservient, and the doctors who foster our agency.

For 8 years, these groups had easy access to the levers of power in this country, right into the White House, and not just through the smug political operative, Karl Rove.  The whole Bush regime, from the “Decider” who believed he was on a mission from God, to the thousands of political appointees who re-wrote government websites, rules and laws restricting abortion access, is responsible for a leap in the way government stopped women from accessing abortion.  These legal and political attacks on women’s access to abortion – and birth control – changed life for millions of women.

They gave the mainstream media the idea that it’s OK to quote anti-abortion organizations as a legitimate voice in the matter of what women have the legal and moral right to do with their lives.

The Rush Limbaughs, Pat Robertsons, and Ann Coulters have responsibility for Dr. Tiller’s murder too, by creating a political climate leading to his murder.  9-11 was the fault of “abortionists” according to Pat Robertson.  The clever Rush comment “Tiller the Killer,” drawn straight from the constant street protesters around George’s clinic, and Coulter’s comment that previous abortion doctors were killed by a “gun used in a procedure” all fuel the climate that it’s OK to murder doctors.

But it’s not only the ravings of the right wing that are dangerous to women’s rights.

What about the “leaders” of the Democratic Party who counsel us to find common ground with these fascists and religious fanatics?  You have a president who invites an outspoken homophobe to give his inaugural prayer, citing “common ground” with this as somehow a step forward.  You have a president who won’t come out in favor of gay marriage, tacitly encouraging many of his supporters to vote FOR Proposition 8 in California.  You have a president who bends over backwards to give legitimacy to the anti-abortion cause, to the honesty of their leaders’ convictions.

If you watched the scene developing in May, weeks before Barack Obama’s appearance at the Notre Dame commencement, as Randall Terry and hundreds of others were getting arrested on the campus, and working themselves into a frenzy – all carefully covered by the national media – and you saw Obama give a speech that didn’t confront them for being wrong, you knew a murder like this would happen.  The “pro-choice” movement, for its part, has surrendered its activism and resources almost completely to the Democratic Party and its “common ground” strategy.

This will inevitably get our abortion doctors killed, and drive others from practice.  A courageous woman physician, who provides abortion care to rural, young and poor women, even if they have no money, is one of the successors of Dr. Tiller.  She wrote today:

“Abortion has been legal in this country for 36 years and it is harder for a woman to access this vital medical care now than it was when I started providing abortion care 21 years ago. The combination of fewer feminist women’s health clinics, restrictive laws and the hijacking of the rhetoric surrounding abortion has made for an empty promise of “choice” for many women. Even our pro-choice President in his speech at Notre Dame said that “abortion is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make.”

I so strongly disagree. For the bulk of my patients it is a moral, responsible decision to make. The most common emotion expressed directly after an abortion and again at the follow up exam is one of relief. If anything, they express guilt for not feeling guilty. Why is the “pro-life” movement so intent on putting out a message to women that they should feel guilty and remorse and shame for taking control of their lives? Why do we LET them define who we are and tell us how we should think?

And then there is the issue of “common ground” between those that support and those that oppose legal abortion. I say this; until those that oppose abortion will agree with and support the notion that the best way to PREVENT unintended pregnancies in the first place (isn’t that the goal?) is to provide ALL women of childbearing age with scientifically accurate, comprehensive information about, and ready access to birth control of all types, there is no common ground. The notion that sexual relations can and will happen only between married, heterosexual couples that wish to conceive is absolutely ridiculous. Abstinence-only education results in higher STI rates, more teen pregnancies, more teen births AND more abortions. Letting religious based individuals and organizations with a totally unrealistic view of teen sexuality into our schools has been a huge mistake. It must stop.

Unfortunately, there is not, to my knowledge, a single “pro-life” organization that supports women using any method of birth control except natural family planning. And what do I call couples that rely on natural family planning?  Pregnant.”

This woman gives me hope.  We-everyone who cares about the humanity of women-should form a solid wall of support around her and other abortion providers.

But I am very angry, and sad, today at the utter injustice of Dr. Tiller’s death.  I’ll be out on Union Square in New York City today, Monday, June 1, at 4:00 pm, joining others to speak out against this murder, and to rally more people to act.

Inside Bush’s War on Birth Control March 27, 2009

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www.truthdig.com, Posted on Mar 26, 2009

By Marie Cocco

    For those whose nostalgia for the Bush administration is unfulfilled by former Vice President Dick Cheney’s snarling television appearance, there is a new window into the soul of the old regime. It is the brutally frank account of how political operatives and ideological helpmates of George W. Bush violated the law in their efforts to keep birth control away from American women—particularly teenagers at the greatest risk of an unplanned and life-altering pregnancy.

    The broad outlines of the case against Bush’s Food and Drug Administration for trying to block the approval of over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill, or Plan B, are widely known. For more than five years, the loyal Bushies at the agency blocked action by subverting science, overruling medical professionals and abandoning FDA standards that have long governed how drugs are switched from prescription-only to over-the-counter availability.

    It was done, of course, at the behest of anti-abortion zealots who consider many commonly used birth control methods as equivalent to terminating a pregnancy. When the FDA finally approved over-the-counter sales in 2006, it restricted them to women 18 and older and tried to impede the pill’s use by insisting that pharmacies keep the drug out of plain view. 

    U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the drug’s sponsors and others, now has ordered the FDA to reconsider the age and availability restrictions on the morning-after pill.

    His decision is a chilling compendium of accounts by doctors and other FDA professionals who were routinely overruled by the president’s political henchmen. Sandra Kweder, a veteran of the agency’s office that dealt with new drugs, testified of being told by superiors that the Bush White House was behind decision-making on the morning-after pill, and “it was made very clear that there were a lot of constituents who would be very unhappy with … an over-the-counter Plan B and … [there was] part of the public that needed to have the message that we were taking adolescents and reproductive issues seriously.”

    But taking these issues seriously would have meant acknowledging that those most likely to benefit from quick availability of birth control after unprotected sex are, in fact, teenagers. In 2004, the court decision says, Curtis Rosebraugh of the FDA’s over-the-counter drug team not only recommended approval, but “he suggested that Plan B could decrease unwanted teen pregnancy by up to 70 percent and reduce teen abortions.”

    The court’s decision is tragically relevant. The teen birth rate has increased for the past two years—after 14 consecutive years of decline.

    Was the FDA’s ideological war on birth control a cause? No one can know. What we know is that it certainly did not help a distraught teenager. 

    Nor did the pernicious spread of federally financed abstinence-only sex education programs during the Bush era. Every sound study of these programs has shown them to have failed at preventing teen sexual activity. Some have indicated that when kids who’ve been through abstinence-only programs do begin to have sex, they are less likely to use birth control. Even Bristol Palin says that telling teens to be abstinent “is not realistic at all.”

    The Obama administration’s FDA is expected to conduct the new review of the morning-after pill that the court ordered. Anti-birth-control advocates are out, scientists are in. There’s little doubt that the drug’s safety and effectiveness—the only considerations that were supposed to be taken into account in the first place—will hold sway.

    Yet White House plans on abstinence-only education programs remain foggy. Its budget blueprint calls for financing “evidence-based” sex education that provides “medically accurate and age-appropriate information” to youths. This is the political code we’ve been forced to start using for giving teenagers the facts about pregnancy and birth control. But the president has also vowed to fund “faith-based efforts” to reduce teen pregnancy.

    It takes a leap of faith, indeed, to see how these two objectives can be reconciled without sacrificing science—and the lives of girls and women who should be able to depend on it.

    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.

© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

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