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They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: Condoms are “Murder” and Contraception is “Rape” November 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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Photo: 100 Red Flags.

by Robin Marty, Senior Political Reporter, RH Reality Check

November 16, 2012 – 10:00am (Print)

Note: Think that anti-choice politicians and activists aren’t trying to outlaw contraception?  Think again.  Follow along in an ongoing series that proves beyond a doubt that they really are coming for your birth control.

How do you make an extreme anti-choice advocate angry? Suggest that not being forced to have one child after another after another after another might be a positive goal toward which to work.

Human Life International is aghast at the idea that global groups might think it would be beneficial to both women and their families that they have some control over when they get pregnant, spacing children far enough apart to be able to recover physically between births and actually care for the children that they give birth to. In fact, the idea is so upsetting, they are up at arms with the assumption that their tax dollars might somehow go to fund this — despite the fact that it would save money in additional medical costs.

Via LifesiteNews:

Declaring birth control a right means “everyone else must pay for…the new right” Clowes told LifeSiteNews, “even if those forced to pay for it may object to it on moral grounds. This violates the more basic human right of freedom of conscience, which has for some time now been dispensed with by UN ‘human rights’ champions.”

The UNFPA estimates “222 million women have an unmet need for contraception” and that providing this “need” will cost $4.1 billion.

Providing such funds, the report states, “would save approximately $5.7 billion in maternal and newborn health services” – an argument similar to that made by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the United States.

The article claims that IUDs and hormonal contraception both work to keep fertilized eggs from implanting, causing “abortions.” But even more interesting is the comments, where even barrier methods of contraception is considered “murder” of children. As one commenter stated, condom use is “murder in potential as much as a conceiveved [sic] fetus is human life in potential.”

The answer to avoiding all murder is still the same: sex only in marriage, and while using natural family planning. Anything else is “rape.”

Yes, you heard me, they are redefining rape again.

For those having sexual relations within natural marriage and want to regulate births, there is natural family planning. Those having sex outside of marriage, be prepared for an unfulfilled life where sexual intimacy is surrounded by unnatural, unreliable, and deadly methods of birth control and is typically an expression of consensual, mutual objectification- which, for all intents and purposes is a form of rape.

The only thing seem to enjoy more than defining rape? Apparently, coming up with new reasons to come for your birth control, of course.

Follow Robin Marty on Twitter, @robinmarty

Obama/Catholic Contraception Controversy Boils Down to Workers’ Rights February 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor, Women.
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Roger’s note: One more movement in the direction of establishing the American theocracy.
Published on Saturday, February 11, 2012 by In These Times

by  Roger Bybee

The great new religious battle over the proposed new federal rule requiring contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions. But it also reveals the political machinations of the right, the suspect motives of the Catholic bishops and another crucial weakness in the much heralded Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act passed by the Democrats and signed by President Obama two years ago.

First, it is striking how America’s all-male Catholic hierarchy has seemingly colluded with Republicans in miraculously conceiving this issue as a potential “wedge” issue to mobilize blue-collar Catholics against President Obama and the Democrats.

Second, it is almost amusing to see bishops, now pretending to launch a last-ditch effort to prevent a sudden and unique incursion by the Obama administration against the freedom to practice their religion. The Catholic hierarchy has decisively “lost the war at home “ already, as Gail Collins notes, but is choosing to pick a political fight. The majority of Catholic women use birth control. Federal rules required contraception’s inclusion for more than a decade, as Daily Kos reports:

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today.

With more than half the states also requiring insurers to include contraception in women’s health care packages, Catholic universities, schools and hospitals are obligated to provide birth-control services to their employees. (Most states have an exemption for churches.)

Further, Catholic doctrine is trumped by the Constitutional principle that members of all faiths must obey the law. Noted attorney David Boise explains that freedom of religion as outlined in the Constitution is quite different from the bishops’ version:

Everybody is free to exercise the religion that they choose. [But] there isn`t anything in the Constitution that says an employer, regardless of whether you are a church employer or not, isn`t subject to the same rules as any other employer.

The fundamental point is underscored in this exchange between Boise and his MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell:

O`DONNELL: So, this is just simple labor law. …Labor [law] requires certain conditions in the work place and so forth. This is one of those.

BOIES: And tax law and workman’s comp law. I mean, there are all sorts of laws that apply to every employer in this country, and you don`t exempt religious employers just because their religion. You are not asking anybody in the Catholic Church or any other church to do anything other than simply comply with a normal law that every employer has to comply with.

Employers who provide health insurance are currently required in 28 states to provide contraceptive services and other reproductive care as part of a strategy of preventive care, which coincides with the conclusions reached by the medical experts consulted in writing the Affordable Care Act.

But the contrived issue of contraception is being perceived by the Republicans as a chance to split working-class Catholics voters from Barack Obama.

It appears to be a textbook case of the Right developing what Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, diagnosed astutely as an “election-season” issue. The Republicans have been immensely creative in inflating issues like gay marriage and gun rights to immense proportions to attract the votes of working-class and low-income voters, facilitated by the frequent Democratic failure to tenaciously push economic justice with the same level of conviction shown by the Right.

For the Republicans and the Right, the notion of including contraception as a standard part of women’s health insurance offers yet another chance to demonize Obama for “overt hostility to faith,” according to Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Pulling out all the stops, Santorum even raised the specter of Obama unleashing savage anti-religious forces that would literally re-introduce the “guillotine” of the French Revolution for the faithful and patriotic.

For the Catholic bishops, this conflict re-ignites their hope of rolling back contraceptive rights, established in a 1965 Supreme Court decision, and also trying to further shrink abortion rights. While the strongly-held sentiment of Americans for contraceptive rights is obvious, the Catholic leaders are trying to regain lost ground by lining up with a retrograde movement. As journalist Barbara Miner observed five years ago:

The movement against birth control has moved beyond the fringe. Across the country, many pharmacists won’t fill birth control prescriptions, some hospital emergency rooms refuse to dispense emergency contraception and some state legislatures are cutting funds for family planning.

The Catholic bishops hope somehow to add fuel to this movement and thus turn the clock back a century or two, with this anti-contraception push being wrapped up with anti-abortion rules in the name of protecting “religious freedom.” Feminists like Barbara Miner and Katha Pollitt are appalled by this campaign. As Miner told In These Times,

The medical community accepts that contraception is an integral part of medical care for women. If the Catholic Church and its institutions are serious about promoting healthcare, they should follow the best practices and give their employees the best quality care, and that includes contraception.

For the Republicans, it also provides another chance to castigate Obama’s healthcare plan, which they previously stigmatized with preposterous lies about creating “death panels” and staging “a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy.”

But we must recognize that the Republicans would have had no opportunity to raise the issue if America had a single-payer healthcasre system instead of the current employer-based structure.

Workers would thereby have a standard package of benefits that would not be tied to their employers’ beliefs and they could choose their own doctors and hospitals.

Instead, the Affordable Care Act retains citizens’ dependence on their employers choices, opening the door for the Catholic bishops to seek to dictate women’s options. The ACA also enshrines and subsidizes the insurance corporations that maximize profits by minimizing care, as well as still leaving out 30 million Americans from health coverage, as O’Donnell drove home emphatically.

Reflecting on the ACA’s flaw that allows the Right and the Catholic bishops to attack women’s right to contraceptive care, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) points out

We`d be better off if we had a single-payer health care system where you didn`t have employers involved.

A more recent struggle offers hope of the public rallying behind women’s reproductive rights, “I think we can learn from the way that people rallied behind Planned Parenthood when the Susan G. Komen Foundation tried to cut off their funding,” Miner says.

© 2012 In These Times

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Roger Bybee

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus.

 

 

 

 

19 Comments so far

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Posted by NC-Tom
Feb 11 2012 – 9:54am

So we have an organization that has sheltered child abusing priests, and actually moved them around from parish to parish thus enabling the activity.  Add to that their silence over the war mongering activity of the US.  For example, how many late term unborn babies have been killed by the US military?  Where is their outrage over that?

Now they become holier than thou over birth control.  WTF?!

Like George Carlin said: “When it comes to BULLSHIT…BIG-TIME, MAJOR LEAGUE BULLSHIT… you have to stand IN AWE, IN AWE of the all time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.

Posted by damnliberal
Feb 11 2012 – 10:01am

There is a difference between the parties that have a chance to win the White House. Living in Michigan I can vote for the nutty Ron Paul because he understands how crazy our foreign policy is, and is against the war on drugs. Michigan hates Romney because he was against saving the American auto industry.

Posted by Trylon
Feb 11 2012 – 10:22am

There are two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world, 2) those who don’t.

This comes to mind when I read a sentence like =contraception coverage for women actually boils down to the basic precept that worker rights apply across all of society, including within religious institutions=.

The issue under contention has more facets than a dodecahedron constructed of mirrors. Each facet boils down to some intensely held belief.

Mine is that this issue should not exist in the first place. Human social contract should provide health care from the aggregate population covered, covering the universe of members, and paid for by the aggregate or gross national product. The insurance industry should be kept at bay from health care by sharpened bayonets, or canisters of tear gas – whatever the hell it takes to make them keep their capitalist peckers in their underpants.

I’m sick and tired of hearing the phrase: “I’m not going to pay for someone’s this or that which is against my morality.”  History shows moralists are equally obnoxious, even murderous, when no financial burden upon them is involved. “You will live in my theocracy and obey my God without complaint or rebellion, or I’ll effing kill you.”

Don’t ever say that to me. Don’t ever say that to me. Trylon

Posted by gardenernorcal
Feb 11 2012 – 10:41am

I agree.  If we had nationalized health care.  The same services would be provided to everyone for the same contribution.  It would be a personal choice if you chose to partake of something that was contrary to your personal religion.  It wouldn’t be a church telling everyone else what they would or wouldn’t be willing to pay for. Or our government exempting some and not exempting others based on a “religious test”.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:29pm

If we ever get an administration courageous enough to attempt to pass a national health service law, I’m sure the RC bishops would be right onto that, too.  But what really bugs me about this latest escapade is that those bishops objecting to ObamaCare had no problem demanding that RC women be excluded from participating in that part of it–whether they wanted to or not.  It’s as though Eliot Ness had taken to raiding the churches and smashing their bottles of communion wine.  Imagine the howl if that had happened.

Posted by Thalidomide
Feb 11 2012 – 10:57am

The fact that the corrupt pro-pedophile leadership of this vatican cult still has political power in the United States is absurd. They have proven themselves to be totally immoral and their hatred of women is legendary. 98 percent of catholic women don’t care what they think so I assume their support is coming from older men who can’t gey pregnant so the hell with them.

Posted by ThomasMarx
Feb 11 2012 – 11:10am

Well, it sure comes as a surprise to me that workers have rights in the greatest democracy and freest country that ever existed in the history of the universe.

Do they really have rights?  That is good news to me. TM

Posted by dkshaw
Feb 11 2012 – 11:31am

What a tempest in a teapot. Bibi and Barky are champing at the bit to begin World War 3, and the media gives us condoms and birth control pills versus religious freedom.

Besides…

Hey! Ratzinger! There are 7 billion people on the planet now. How many more do you want? Would another 7 billion do it for you? Another 14 billion? 21 billion? Please. Give us a number that will satisfy you so that your “flock” may then be allowed to use birth control.

Posted by pjd412
Feb 11 2012 – 1:16pm

Actually, the insurance coverage is only for prescription or physician-installed contraceptives.  Non prescription contraceptives (condoms) were never covered.

You can calm down a bit about the contraceptive issue.  Catholics worldwide ignore the hoary old “contraceptives are sinful” .  The countries with some of the lowest fertility rates and population declines – Spain, Southern Germany, Italy, probably even Ireland, are Catholic countries.  In the US, the largest family sizes are in the Protestant-dominant south, and the smallest, in the Catholic dominated north.  The countries with the highest fertility rates are Muslim countries.  Muslims have no objection to birth control.

Fertility rates and population growth have nothing to do with availability of contraception, becasue contraception is already available everywhere, nor religion.  They have to do with standard of living.  Having a large family is a perfectly rational social and economic decision for a poor family in an peasant (or even not-so peasant) agrarian culture, and this agrarian tradition, tends to persist, disfunctionally, for a few generations after the rural poor move to the cities.  But it always does die out, and replacement level or lower birth rates are achieved once living standard is improved.  This (along with China’s one child law) is why population is stabilizing on its own and nobody knowledgeable about the issues considers population to be a problem.   The problem is the distribution of wealth, and disproportionate planetary environmental impacts among the population, not the population.  Throw you old yellowed copies of Ehrlich away.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:37pm

I think you misunderstand the source of people’s anger.  It isn’t that Roman Catholic women are being denied birth control; it’s that the president of the USA rolled over and did what the RC bishops demanded in denying RC women the same coverage under his health plan that all other women got.  I’m sure many people object to various provisions of the plan, but they don’t get to call the shots on other people’s coverages.

Posted by WoodGas
Feb 11 2012 – 11:59am

Maybe I’m missing something here. Is anyone being required, as a condition of employment, to USE birth control? While there are situations where I think contraception should be mandatory, (methamthetamine use for one) there doesn’t seem to be any personal use requirement involved here, where does infringement of rights come into this?  “Just say no”

Posted by Stone
Feb 11 2012 – 12:53pm

It is not a workers right to destroy life.  Life is the superior value.

Posted by shadre
Feb 11 2012 – 2:18pm

Sorry, but to me, your statement is a bit disingenuous, considering that ALL life is “the superior value (sacred, if you belief in a Creator), and humankind has lived to destroy life from the time we came to be on this planet.

Posted by conscience
Feb 11 2012 – 2:36pm

And male supremacists get to decide that a woman’s life is less superior to sperm or a fertilized egg — ?

Those same male supremacists who have oppressed women and children for 2,000 years?

You can embrace democracy and equality for all, or you can follow male-supremacists.   Democracy is superior to male-supremacy. Equality for all is superior to male supremacy.  It’s your choice.

Posted by pjd412
Feb 11 2012 – 12:55pm

My understanding of this agreement is that the Catholic institution will not have to list contraception on their employee insurance benefit booklets, but prescription contraception will still be covered “on the sly”.  So, theoretically, the Catholic employer group plan rates will be a bit lower, but the premium payers in general will pay a bit more to cover the Catholic cleric’s or administrator’s religious freedom.  But the amount is probably tiny and completely buried by other cost increases in the dysfunctional US health care system,  So I really can’t get too indignant about it.  Give them their religious freedom and get back to more important issues like health care for all regardless of condition of employment.

Posted by Rainborowe
Feb 11 2012 – 2:47pm

It is not the women who are demanding to have this benefit denied them, it it?    And any women who reject birth control are free to avoid using it.  So where’s the “religious freedom” in allowing a bunch of male priests to exclude women of their faith from getting a benefit open to all other women?

Posted by Samalabear
Feb 11 2012 – 1:21pm

Lawrence O’Donnell expands the next night on this mess:

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/46321122#null

Nice little rant here.

And then here’s a story that was on Marketplace that talks about the impact of the Catholic Church when it comes to contraception in countries that are vulnerable to the man-made rules of the Catholic Church:

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths

Posted by shadre
Feb 11 2012 – 2:28pm

I think it’s high time these few churches who’re trying to control the whole government, and people not even of their faiths, should have to start paying taxes.

Oh, that’s right – the largest of them doing the most to take control has never even been a citizen of this country.  We could at least tax their churches that are here though.

Posted by David McConnell
Feb 11 2012 – 2:34pm

What I see here is a classic example of we want our rights, but you can’t have yours.  You can’t stand the concept of not working for an employer who’s beliefs don’t mirror your own.  You think you have the right to walk into any place of employment and force your beliefs upon your employer.  Deal with it.  No church should be forced to hire employees who’s beliefs contradict their’s.  Why would you even want to work in that environment, unless it was to cause problems?  I detest organized religion, but this country was founded on some basic rights and you want to take that away.

Obama’s woman problem December 8, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Women.
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Thursday, Dec 8, 2011 4:58 PM 22:37:36 EST, www.salon.com

The president shamefully uses his daughters to justify limiting the healthcare options of America’s young women

obama knows best

     (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster/Salon)

When will Barack Obama learn how to talk thoughtfully about women, women’s health and women’s rights?

Apparently, not today.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unexpectedly overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that emergency contraception be sold on drugstore shelves and made available without a prescription to women under the age of 17. The move came as a surprise blow to healthcare and women’s rights activists, the kinds of people regularly counted as supporters of the Obama administration.

Today, Obama doubled down on his disregard for the concerns of these groups, claiming that while Sebelius made her decision without his counsel, he agreed with it. Obama pooh-poohed the findings of the FDA, which had concluded that Plan B pills posed no medical hazard and supported Sebelius’ official argument, citing a lack of confidence that “a 10-year-old or 11-year-old going to a drugstore would be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteries, be able to buy a medication that potentially if not used properly can have an adverse effect.” The logic expressed today by the president, and yesterday by Sebelius, is ludicrous: Medicines like Tylenol – which have been proven to have adverse effects in high doses – are available by the truckload on drugstore shelves, at prices far cheaper than the $30 to $50 it would cost a preteen to purchase just one dose of Plan B, let alone go wild with it.

But part of what was most disturbing about Obama’s statement was his reliance on language that reveals his paternalistic approach to women and their health.

“As the father of two daughters,” Obama told reporters, “I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”

First of all, the president was not talking about “various rules.” He was supporting a very specific rule, one that prevents young women from easily obtaining a drug that can help them control their reproductive lives, at an age when their economic, educational, familial and professional futures are perhaps most at risk of being derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. “As the father of two daughters,” Obama might want to reconsider his position on preventing young women from being able to exercise this form of responsibility over their own bodies and lives.

But as an American, I think it is important for my president not to turn to paternalistic claptrap and enfeebling references to the imagined ineptitude and irresponsibility of his daughters – and young women around the country – to justify a curtailment of access to medically safe contraceptives. The notion that in aggressively conscribing women’s abilities to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy Obama is just laying down some Olde Fashioned Dad Sense diminishes an issue of gender equality, sexual health and medical access. Recasting this debate as an episode of “Father Knows Best” reaffirms hoary attitudes about young women and sex that had their repressive heyday in the era whence that program sprang.

A question of who should be allowed access to a safe form of contraception is at its root a question of how badly we want to, or believe that we can, police young women’s sexuality. When Obama is talking about his daughters, we know he’s not really basing his opinion on an anxiety that they might suffer the adverse effects of drinking a whole jug of Pepto-Bismol or swallowing 50 Advil, things that any 11-year-old who walks into a CVS with a wad of cash could theoretically do. When he says that he wants to “apply common sense” to questions of young women’s access to emergency contraception, he is telegraphing his discomfort with the idea of young women’s sexual agency, or more simply, with the idea of them having sex lives at all. This discomfort might be  comprehensible from an emotional, parental point of view. But these are not familial discussions; this is a public-health policy debate, and at a time when “16 and Pregnant” airs on MTV, the fact that a daddy feels funny about his little girls becoming grown-ups has no place in a discussion of healthcare options for America’s young women. It is also nearly impossible to imagine a similar use of language or logic to justify a ban of condom sales.

Moreover, Obama’s invocation of his role as a father is an insult to the commitments and priorities of those on the other side of this issue. Are we to believe that those who support the increased availability of emergency contraception do not have daughters? That if they do, they care less about those daughters than Barack Obama does about his? And that if they do not, they cannot possibly know better than a father of daughters what is best for young women? Why should we be asked to believe that Obama’s paternity imbues him with more moral authority on the subject of women’s health and reproductive lives than the investments of doctors, researchers and advocates who – regardless of their parental status – have dedicated their lives to working on behalf of increased reproductive health options. This line of argument is no better than the Mama Grizzly argument developed by Sarah Palin during 2010′s midterm elections, in which she asserted that her band of super-conservative mothers were qualified for office because “moms just know when there’s something wrong.”

Barack Obama has long had a tin ear for language that has anything to do with women and even more specifically with women’s rights. While on the campaign trail for president in 2008, he waved off a female reporter who asked a question about the future of the auto industry, referring to her diminutively as “sweetie.” The same year, attempting to play both sides on the issue of reproductive freedom, he gave an interview with a religious magazine in which he asserted his support for states’ restrictions on late-term abortions as long as there was an exception for the health of the mother, but added that he didn’t “think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother.” Attempting to recover from that line and reassert his pro-choice bona fides, Obama later clarified that of course he believed in a medical exemption for “serious clinical mental health diseases,” just not when seeking a late-term abortion is “a matter of feeling blue,” perpetuating a wildly irresponsible vision of the rare and difficult late-term abortion as a moody impulse-buy.

Today also isn’t the first time he’s used references to members of his family to make a larger offensive point about women. Back in 2009, when charges that his officially female-friendly administration included some boys’ club tendencies hit the front of the New York Times, Obama dismissed the claims as “bunk.” Reporter Mark Leibovich noted at the time that the president “often points out that he is surrounded by strong females at home,” an argument that not only mimics an old saw about how being henpecked by women is equivalent to respecting them, but reflects a dynamic as old as patriarchal power itself and sidesteps the question of how strong females are treated at work. In 2010, while appearing on “The View,” Obama made a creaky Take-My-Wife-Please joke about how he wanted to appear on “a show that Michelle actually watched” as opposed to the news shows she usually flips past. The joke being that his missus, the one he met when she mentored him at a high-powered law firm, just doesn’t have a head for news delivered by anyone other than Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

It should no longer come as a surprise that the president of the United States is, on perhaps an unconscious level, an old-school patriarch. What’s startling is the degree to which Obama seems not to have learned from any of his past gaffes, how no one seems to have told him – or told him in a way that he’s absorbed – that the best way to address a question of women’s health and rights is probably not by making it about his role as a father.

This might be an especially valuable chat to have with the president as he moves into 2012 and toward an election in which he is going to be relying on the support of people he has just managed to anger, offend and speak down to — women. The least he could do is learn to address them with respect.

Rebecca Traister
Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of “Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women” (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.More Rebecca Traister

The War on Contraception Goes Viral May 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
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by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check

May 16, 2011 – 9:06am

As those of us who’ve been following the anti-choice movement for years can attest, the biggest stumbling block for them has been finding a way to make a move towards restricting access to contraception while still trying to keep something like a decent reputation with the public. Attacking sexual liberation and women’s rights has always been at the heart of the anti-choice movement, but in order to sell such a radical agenda as mainstream, they’ve had to make sentimental and often bad faith claims about simply wanting to protect fetal life. While making frowny faces in the direction of pregnant women who want to terminate has been an effective strategy for restricting abortion rights, however, it has its limits when it comes to attacking women’s ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

Not that there haven’t been attempts at using “pro-life” arguments to fight not just abortion but contraception. Some anti-choicers have floated the idea that contraception leads to abortion—claiming that women wouldn’t have abortions if they didn’t get it in their silly heads that they should be able to have sex for pleasure instead of procreation. (Never mind that women throughout history have attempted abortion by all sorts of means, whether their cultures had contraception or not.) A slightly more effective argument has been to claim, with no evidence in support, that popular, female-controlled hormonal birth control is the same thing as abortion. This hasn’t done much to convince anyone, but at least establishes a convoluted, disingenuous cover story about embryonic life that anti-choicers can hide behind while they attack contraception. But even then, it has limits, since while the “pill is abortion” argument can be used to attack hormonal contraception, even anti-choicers haven’t been bold enough to claim that condoms or other barrier methods are also abortion.

Then, just this year, it seems that the anti-choice movement came to a nationwide realization: Their past attempts to create some logical-sounding connection between contraception and fetal life were a waste of time and energy. Successful attacks on contraception don’t have to make sense or even look like they kind of sort of make sense if you look at them sideways while ignoring history, science, and true rationality. No, all they have to do is wave their hands around while yelling “abortion” and focus their attacks on those made vulnerable through economic duress, and they would have surprising success at separating women from the means to prevent pregnancy.

True, screaming “abortion” while attacking funding for contraception and other reproductive health services that aren’t abortion didn’t end up as successful as anti-choicers hoped when the Republicans nearly brought the federal government to a shutdown trying to defund Planned Parenthood. But overall, the entire debacle was a success for the anti-choice movement, because by the time it was all over, politicians who want to be viewed as social conservatives realized that it’s no longer enough to be anti-abortion. You must also be opposed to access to contraception for people deemed to be unworthy of sexual autonomy, namely, low-income women and young women.

What this means is that politicians in conservative areas have taken a hard right turn on contraception. The biggest example so far is definitely Indiana, where Gov. Mitch Daniels blew off the “truce” he claimed to support in the culture wars to sign a bill that defunds family planning aid to his state, which will inevitably increase the state’s budget problems in myriad ways. If this were 2010, Daniels probably wouldn’t have done that or even have been put in that situation. In the past few months, however, the last tentacle attached to the concept of attaching anti-choice lies to some semblance of truth has been released, and any politician who doesn’t want to be labeled “pro-abortion” had better start hating on contraception, no matter how many abortions it may prevent.

The pressure to move towards a more radical anti-contraception stance is quickly becoming localized, which was entirely predictable, as conservatives tend to organize on a local and state level far more than liberals do. A reader from Tennessee alerted me to this story about the commissioners at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department in the state suddenly turning on family planning, canceling a half million dollar contract for family planning services in the area on the grounds of “abortion”, even though (say it with me now) none of the funding in question goes to abortion.

The reasoning for this is scattered and nonsensical. The all-male commissioner board claims some times that the problem is that abortions are being performed in the same buildings as contraception is distributed, and some times they claim that contraception is abortion. Because of this ridiculous inability to even pretend like they’re making sense, the board has tabled the debate until this Wednesday, but it’s not looking good for the women of Chattanooga-Hamilton County who rely on subsides to pay for birth control and other forms of non-abortion reproductive health care. The arguments for cutting the funding probably won’t get any more coherent, nor will the politicians pushing them likely bother to do anything crazy like educate themselves on the realities of women’s health care before condemning it all as abortion. They don’t need to anymore; anti-choicers who are calling the shots don’t care what kind of hand-waving you employ, so long as the goal of cutting off women’s access to contraception is achieved.

Unfortunately, barring some miraculous turn of events in the courts that shut this all down, we can probably expect to see more of this on the state and local level in conservative areas. A switch has been flipped in the conservative movement, and it’s not enough anymore to simply oppose abortion rights anymore, but to move even more radically in a direction of denying women any right to control their bodies whatsoever.

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.

Elizabeth K.Canfield June 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Women.
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31 May 2009, 19:59

 

To the family and staff of Dr.Tiller:

 

In my many years of work in family planning,reproductive health and pregnancy-options counseling I had occasion to refer to Dr.Tiller’s clinic many times and always with a heavy heart, as no woman waits for a late procedure on purpose. He provided last-resort services to desperate women unable to obtain them sooner or elsewhere, for reasons too numerous to mention here.
I am deeply shocked by today’s news of his murder and extend my heartfelt condolences to everyone who loved and worked with this dedicated, courageous physician.
With warmest regards,

 Liz Canfield
Albuquerque,NM

Where Did the Abortion Reduction Agenda Come From? February 19, 2009

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Frederick Clarkson on February 16, 2009

www.rhrealitycheck.org

You could say this is a story about the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same.  

The rise of the concept of “abortion reduction” as a worthy policy goal, currently being promoted by some in the Democratic Party, has generally tracked the rise of the Party’s fortunes of the over the past few years and the accompanying decline in the likelihood that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. The Democrats’ ascent, and Roe‘s resilience, has been a tough reality for antiabortion leaders to face, but they are not out of strategic and tactical options. Politics is the art of the possible.   

Abortion reduction, currently being sold as the “common ground” between the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps, has its roots in anti-abortion strategy developed over several months in 1996 by a coalition of 45 anti-abortion and religious right leaders. The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern was also signed by several Democratic-leaning activists, most significantly, former Governor Robert Casey Sr. of Pennsylvania (father of the current Senator Robert Casey Jr.).  The manifesto was published the May 1996 issue of the flagship journal of Catholic neoconservatism, First Things (edited by the late John Richard Neuhaus); in The National Review; and on the web site of Priests for Life, headed by the militant Fr. Frank Pavone.  The source of the opportunity to reduce abortions, they found, resided in the holdings of 1992 Supreme Court decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, named for the former governor.   

Among the forty-five were also some of the leading proponents of abortion reduction ideas now ascendant in Democratic Party circles: Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Professor David Gushee, then of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action.   

“Now, as pro-life leaders and scholars,” they declared, “we want to propose a program of action…”  And the core of that program was abortion reduction by erecting barriers to access to abortion “in all 50 states” and creating incentives for women to carry unplanned pregnancies to term.   

While the signers agreed that the regulations upheld in the Casey decision do “do not afford any direct legal protection to the unborn child,” they emphasized that “experience has shown that such regulations–genuine informed consent, waiting periods, parental notification--reduce abortions in a locality, especially when coupled with positive efforts to promote alternatives to abortion and service to women in crisis.” [Emphasis added] 

Abortion Reduction and Criminalization

This was, however, cast in the context of wider goal of criminalization. Having declared abortion to be among other things, child killing, an act of “lethal violence,” and a usurpation of the rule of law, the signatories added: “Any criminal sanctions considered in such legislation [then being considered by Congress] should fall upon abortionists, not upon women in crisis.” They further urged Congress to “recognize the unborn child as a human person entitled to the protection of the Constitution.”   

They believed that “a broad-based legal and political strategy is essential,” and therefore, found “no contradiction between a rigorous adherence to our ultimate goal and the pursuit of reforms that advance us toward that goal.”    

“Legal reforms that fall short of our goal,” they concluded, “but which help move us toward it, save lives and aid in the process of moral and cultural renewal.”  

Other prominent signatories, led by host George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (the official biographer of Pope John Paul II) included Catholic legal scholar Robert P. George of Princeton; Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, (whom George W. Bush would appoint as Ambassador to the Vatican), James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Ralph Reed of the then-powerful Christian Coalition, law professor Michael W. McConnell of the University of Chicago; Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America; William Kristol then of the Project for the Republican Future, now a contributor to Fox News, and Jean Bethke Elshtain, a political philosopher at the University of Chicago, and currently a co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.  

While this top drawer coalition of antiabortion leaders of the day did not mention sexuality education and contraception as legitimate means of preventing unwanted pregnancies (and thus “abortion reduction”), at least three of them went on to play prominent roles in the development of the “common ground” agenda on abortion reduction recently announced by the Democratic Party-aligned DC think tanks, Faith in Public Life and Third Way, in their document Come Let Us Reason Together:  A Governing Agenda to End the Culture Wars (CLURT).  This document highlighted sexuality education (with an emphasis on abstinence), access to contraception, and economic supports for adoption, as areas of “common ground” on abortion.  

CLURT did not mention erecting further barriers of the sort legitimized in the Casey decision. Nor did it address the need to provide for better access to abortion care, which unavailable in 87% of the counties in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute.  

Among the seven principal authors of CLURT, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action also signed the 1996 antiabortion manifesto; while David Gushee, now of Mercer University states in his curriculum vitae that he “participated in the drafting” of the document.   Jim Wallis of Sojourners signed both.   

“Public policy has its limits,” Gushee declared at the January 15th press conference announcing CLURT. “We call for abortion reduction. I support this because I believe that one of the things that must not be done to human beings is to abort them; and yet those facing crisis pregnancies need help to create the conditions in which they can sustain and protect the lives for which they are now responsible.”   

Abortion Reduction Reductionism 

What is remarkable is how one of the signature antiabortion tactics of the 1990s has now migrated into the Democratic Party under the guise of offering “common ground.”  Abortion reduction was once a matter of preventing people from exercising their right to receive and to provide abortion care. Now a few politically savvy Protestant evangelicals and an apparently growing number of Democrats pols are willing to redefine historic ideas of the role of sexuality education and family planning in terms of abortion reduction.  

Used in this way, along with economic supports for pregnancy and adoption, pro-choice politicians including President Obama use the term and its close variants to show pro-lifers that they can better reduce the number of abortions than anti-choice Republicans.  

It is clever politics. But there is more to it. There are profound differences just underneath the surface of a seemingly minor tug of war over semantics. These differences are blurred by the invocation of common ground language. The difference was cast in sharp relief last year during negotiations over the wording of the Democratic Party Platform position on abortion.  Prolife evangelicals led by Jim Wallis (and CLURT co-author Joel Hunter) disagreed with pro-choice leaders over language that sought to reduce the need for abortion as distinct from the number of abortions.  In the end, the platform unambiguously supported Roe and recognized the need for abortion. In exchange, the platform also called for greater support for women who seek to carry their pregnancies to term and for the adoption option. But the platform avoided the term “abortion reduction.”  

But have Gushee, Wallis and Sider changed their views? In 1996 they believed that there is never a “need” for abortion; rejected the idea that it is ever a moral choice; and unequivocally stated that criminalization was a goal of antiabortion legislation — even while they also pursued abortion reduction tactics under the rubric of Casey. Today, they face different political circumstances and the Democrats have made some accommodations in the platform that will likely be implemented in legislation.  

The CLURT statement joins a few pro-choice think tankers with a few prominent moderate evangelicals in agreeing on broad principles related to sexuality education and family planning. But that’s it. Why then, is it important?  

It is important because of the prominence of these groups in seeking to define what a faith-based, common ground “governing agenda” might look like.  But it is significant also because of what it does and what it does not do. 

First, in its summary language, CLURT seeks to have it both ways, papering over vital differences with the slight of hand of language. 

“Reducing abortions (reducing abortion through reducing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women, and increasing support for adoption)” [Bolding in the original]  

Second, the pro-choice agenda has always been about expanding access to abortion such that everyone who needs one can get one; and emphasizing that there should be comprehensive sex ed and access to contraception so that women and girls can control their own reproductive future and will not have to make the choice between termination and carrying a pregnancy to term. But unlike the Democratic Platform, there is nothing in the CLURT statement that acknowledges the right to or need for abortion — let alone that universal access is a dream that is far from realized. 

Third, there is nothing in the CLURT document that suggests that Gushee, Wallis and Sider and their ant-iabortion allies will not pursue Casey-based policies that erect obstacles to abortion in the name of reduction, in those states where it is politically possible to do so.  

That these leaders were able to agree in principle on sexuality education and family planning is no small thing. But it is not the same thing as finding common ground on abortion nor does it reflect a commitment to reducing barriers to abortion or in any way increasing access.  

The concept of “abortion reduction” as a public policy has come a long way since 1996, and at the same time, no distance at all.

The Obama Mandate: End Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs February 19, 2009

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Jodi Jacobson on February 18, 2009

www.rhrealitycheck.org

Republicans these days are very, very deeply concerned about “wasteful government spending.”  House Minority Leader John Boehner complained about wasteful spending in the stimulus.  Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana stated: “More big government spending…won’t cure what ails the American economy.”  House Republican Whip Eric Kantor made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows talking “waste, waste, waste.”  And now, according to the New York Times, the National Republican Congressional Committee is launching ads blasting House Democrats on the stimulus bill, which it ridicules as “chockfull of wasteful Washington spending.”

You know what?  I agree.  Let’s get rid of that wasteful Washington spending.

And I have a concrete suggestion that will save over $200 million in cold hard cash right away, plus billions of dollars in future healthcare and related economic costs!

Sound too good to be true?  

Really, it’s not a gimmick.  It’s very simple: We just need to zero out funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the next budget cycle.

These programs don’t work to reduce sexual activity in teens, they don’t work to reduce sexually transmitted infections and they don’t work to reduce unintended pregnancies.

What is worse, they waste money both on the front end and the back end: The failure of these programs to effectively contribute to preventing unintended pregnancies and infections from the outset actually costs more money in the long run.  In 2004, for example, teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers at least $9.1 billion, never mind the costs of sexually transmitted infections.  So by investing in abstinence-only programs, taxpayers actually are losing billions at a rapid clip.

So it’s easy.  Eliminate the funding; we all save money now and money later.  

Given the general concern about wasteful spending, the desire to ensure the prudent investments of taxpayer funds in ways that yield positive benefits, concerns about rising health care costs, and the now-overwhelming evidence that abstinence-only programs don’t work, one might assume it will be easy to reach bipartisan agreement that abstinence-only programs, like the bridges to nowhere of the past,  should just be cut.  No bickering, no posturing…pure and simple.  Should be easy.

We will soon find out.

Given they control the White House and Congress, the ball actually is in the Democrats’ court for now.  Several observers have suggested it may be too late to remove funding for abstinence-only from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations bill, which has yet to be passed and which will likely be rolled into a giant omnibus bill to be dealt with by Congress.  (Although given their concerns, perhaps the Republicans will offer an amendment to take it out?)

But President Obama is expected to release his first federal budget request, for FY 2010, at the end of February, and the pressure is on to eliminate ab-only funding in this next fiscal cycle.  A number of leading advocacy groups, including Advocates for Youth and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS) have launched campaigns urging President Obama to do just that.  Both point to promises made by Obama during the campaign and in his inaugural speech to put an end to these programs, and to ensure evidence drives public policy.  (To take action see Advocates for Youth here, and SIECUS here).

Candidate Obama, for example, “firmly oppose(d) federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.”  He also declared support for “comprehensive sex education that is age-appropriate,” and asserted that providing “science-based sex education in schools [is] the right thing to do.”  As a Senator, he was a co-sponsor of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, which would provide funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, and the Prevention First Act which supports efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy and increase access to contraceptive services and information.  Moreover, during the transition, a Congressional liaison from the President-Elect’s transition team reportedly communicated directly to congressional leaders Obama’s firm opposition to continued funding for abstinence-only programs, expressing again his full support for comprehensive approaches.

Still, many advocates want Obama to make this crystal clear when he releases his budget and not, according to fears expressed by some, just give “broad guidance to Congress” as he did with the stimulus package.   They want the White House to make its priorities known.  James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth, notes that:

“What President Obama does on abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in his first budget will be the flagship signal for young people regarding the President’s credibility on reproductive and sexual health issues.  Obama was explicitly supportive of comprehensive sex education and science-based approaches to public policy during his campaign.  This budget must zero out abstinence-only funding.  It simply has to go.”

The majority of Americans apparently agree with Wagoner and the President on comprehensive programming.  According to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, originally published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the majority of American adults (80.4 percent) favor a balanced approach to sex education in schools, regardless of their political leanings.  The survey gauged strong support for teaching children about both abstinence and other ways of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  And, as Wagoner points out, support for the stimulus package proposed by the President polled 20 points higher among 18 to 29 year olds then the rest of the population, indicating the very high level of political support among young adult voters for “doing the right thing.”

And here is where it gets a little complicated.

First of all, under the Bush Administration, funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs rose from $97.5 million in 2000 to $215 million in 2008.  The funding kept rising, even when Democrats were in control of Congress, and even after numerous studies, including a federally-funded evaluation conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and published in April 2007, showed that these programs were ineffective.  The Mathematica study reviewed four carefully selected abstinence-only education programs, and showed that youth enrolled in the programs were no more likely than those not in the programs to delay sexual initiation, to have fewer sexual partners, or to abstain entirely from sex.

Still, the programs retained strong support from powerful organizations, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and from a wide array of conservative evangelical groups receiving federal funds to promote abstinence-only.  As a result, some members of Congress, including Congressman David Obey, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, have been reluctant to cut such funding in the past.  Obey, for one, comes from a heavily Catholic district near Milwaukee.  Absent a clear message from the White House that the days of abstinence-only are over, some fear that members like Obey may not remove this funding from the House appropriations bill. 

And if the stimulus debacle was any indication, we can anticipate that, despite their concern for waste in government, at least a few Republican leaders will try to twist the debate on funding of abstinence-only programs until the facts lay in tatters on the green room floors of cable stations across the land.  If that happens, then other members, even Democrats, may feel pressured to act against both the evidence and that ever-invoked “will of the American people” just to mollify the loudest in the farthest right.

Because of these complicated politics, nothing is guaranteed.  To ensure the House does the right thing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a strong supporter of evidence-based programs, needs to use her leadership role and make clear to her members from the outset that the goal is to end funding for these programs once and for all. 

Second, there is no line item for comprehensive sexual health education in the federal budget, and bills proactively supporting these programs have yet to be passed.  Related programs also desperately need additional funding.  According to Bill Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at SIECUS:

“The challenge is not just about getting rid of funding for abstinence-only programs, it’s also about fulfilling the committment to fund comprehensive sex education, increasing HIV prevention and Title X funding and about increased funding for the broader reproductive and sexual health services needed by people throughout this country.”

So to really fulfill his own mandate, Obama has to cut out money for programs that don’t work and proactively fund programs that do work, and which people urgently need, like family planning, sexual health education, HIV prevention and the rest. 

For now, however, abstinence-only remains a boondoggle and a dangerous one at that.  Originally reported by Joe Sonka on Amplify, an Advocates for Youth site, and then on RH Reality Check, one such program supported by $800,000 of your tax dollars pays a clown with dubious credentials (ok, I admit I do not know the full curriculum at clown school) to teach adolescents about “saving sex for marriage.”  Great for that first birthday party, but not so much for safer sex, unless he teaches creative use of the balloons.  And even then I am not so sure.  But clearly the content of this program was embarrassing enough that once exposed, both the clown, and Elizabeth’s New Life Center, lucky recipient of all these funds, removed information regarding the program from their respective web sites.

And while the clown example may provide fodder for late-night television comedy, other programs engage in dangerous reinforcement of attitudes and behaviors that denigrate women, blacks, hispanics and homosexuals.  For example, another program uncovered by Amplify, again in Ohio, involved a video role-play of four teens at a party, one of whom, a female, offers to drive her drunk (male) friend home.  When he rapes her, the role-play blames her for “putting herself in a risky situation” and for “having a reputation,” suggesting her claims of rape are suspect.  So this program actually blames the victim for the rape, and dismisses the guy’s behavior as a “boys will be boys” escapade.  Apparently strength of conviction by the organization running this program about the video dissipated as fast as you could say “blog post,” because once again, the video got changed right after the program was exposed.  Shows you what a little “transparency” might find.

Reinforcement of prejudicial attitudes, bias and discrimination based on race and sexual identity also are rife within these programs, many of which are subject to little if any oversight for content.  A report by Legal Momentum, for example, found that many federally funded abstinence-only programs discourage condom use, distort reproductive health information, and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.  “Many programs also perpetuate sexist and racist stereotypes about women of color,” adds the report.  

One example is ’The Choice Game’ which:

“Has a ‘Midwest School version’ that features 95 percent white students and an ‘urban school version,’ featuring ’55% African-American actors, 24% Hispanic actors and the remaining are Caucasian.’  The urban version contains stereotypes of African-American women as sexually aggressive and as drug users, and of African-American men as likely to end up in jail.  In sharp contrast, the Midwest materials depict white students working to maintain their ‘traditional values.’”

Reports by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union reveal similar findings.  And a 2004 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that

“over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of grantees [reviewed] in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.” 

In short, the programs reviewed by the Committee took an industrial-size eraser to the line between separation of church and state, relying on heavy does of prosyletizing and religious content to get their ineffective messages across.

Finally, a report by Douglas Kirby, a Senior Research Scientist at ETR Associates conducted for the National Campaign to Reduce Teen Pregnancy stated that:

At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior. That is, they did not delay the initiation of sex, increase the return to abstinence or decrease the number of sexual partners. At the same time, they did not have a negative impact on the use of condoms or other contraceptives.  Studies of abstinence programs have not produced sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination.

What more do we need to know to avoid putting several hundred million more dollars through a giant shredder?

In this new era of citizen participation, accountability, and respect for  evidence and human rights, it is up to us to ensure our elected officials get rid of this particular barrel of pork.

“On one hand,” says Marcela Howell, Vice President of Policy and Communications at Advocates for Youth, 

“We have a Democratic President who has pledged to get rid of this spending.  We have a majority of Democrats in Congress who have publicly stated opposition to this funding, and we have a Republican party on the hunt for wasteful spending.  It seems like an easy decision.”

It should be easy.  But to be honest, given this situation, if we can’t mobilize enough grassroots strength to ensure the President and Congress get rid of these funds, bring back the clown because the joke is on us.

The 200 Million Dollar Question January 31, 2009

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Cristina Page, www.huffingtonpost.com, January 30, 2009

Remember last week House Republicans, led by Rep. John Boehner, staged a prime-time temper tantrum arguing they couldn’t tolerate spending $200 million on contraceptive coverage, which they reported was part of the stimulus plan? Democrats capitulated and contraception was gone. Now, it turns out there never was a $200 million budget request for contraception included.

Rep. Boehner made a huge “mistake,” one that conveniently served his interests, and that he didn’t step up to correct. A week ago today he stood on television and announced that the stimulus package included hundreds of million of dollars for contraception, on Meet the Press he was more specific saying it would be “over $200 million.” Ever since that dramatic press conference, policy experts have been searching for any mention of such an expenditure. Rep. Henry Waxman called Boehner’s office seeking their source on it, but Boehner’s office is not forthcoming. That’s because the budget item didn’t exist. There is a $200 million figure that appears in the stimulus package for contraception: it refers to the projected cost savings to the states in five years. Good thing the package didn’t include mention of the $700 million it was projected to save states in ten years. One could only imagine the outrage then.

The media perpetuated the Congressman’s self-serving blunder. They used Boehner as an unimpeachable source, not checking to see if his figure was correct. Turns out Boehner is impeachable. The inclusion of contraception in the stimulus package was not a budget allocation but instead a proposal to insert more government efficiency into the process; streamlining the states’ cumbersome application process for Medicaid waivers for family planning services. According to actual documentation by the Congressional Budget Office, in the first three years the provision would not cost more than 50 million each year. They project that after the third year, it costs nothing and the savings to the states would total more than 100 million each year. That’s $200 million in savings by year five. $700 million in savings by year ten.

Currently under Medicaid the federal government acts as if pregnancy is cheaper than preventing it. According to the experts, who have been excluded from this debate, the provision in the stimulus package would have allowed every woman who is already eligible for Medicaid coverage for pregnancy-related care, to be eligible for pregnancy prevention care too. Just under half the states have already requested and received waivers to do exactly this –14 even during the Bush administration. Changing the law would have simply made it much quicker and easier for additional states to expand their Medicaid programs in this way, and for states already with expansions to renew their programs.

Mary Jane Gallagher, President and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, wrote on RH Reality Check,

Right now, Medicaid – the government’s way of paying for health care for low-income women and men – provides funding for pregnancy-related care for women whose incomes are up to a certain percentage of the federal poverty level (roughly $17,600 for a family of three). The provision that was stripped out of the House bill would have allowed states to provide family planning services to anyone who, based on their income, would be eligible for pregnancy-related care under Medicaid. In other words, if you would qualify for pregnancy-related care under Medicaid, you would also qualify to access family planning services, including contraceptives, if you do not wish to become pregnant.

So, a good question for the media to ask Boehner now: “Where did you get the $200 million dollar figure on how much the provision would cost? And when he’s unable or unwilling to answer that, the follow-up question should be, “Why didn’t you correct this mistake? Why did you let it get this out of hand?”

It remains to be seen whether the shock media still perpetuating the story will become as apoplectic about being misled. Will Chris Matthews, who compared offering poor women access to contraception to the coercive forced abortion laws in China, inform his viewers of this news? Will Curtis Sliwa, who appeared on Sean Hannity’s show to announce that making contraception more accessible is part of Nancy Pelosi’s plan to “eliminate minority populations,” be swayed by the truth? Will Neil Cavuto re-examine his proposal to encourage unwanted pregnancy because, “You want more people eventually in this country paying into social security because you have more people retiring.”

We know the answer to those questions. The one question that does remain is “Will Boehner get away with brazenly misleading the public on this issue.” Hopefully some real journalism will emerge to answer this question.

This post originally appeared on RH Reality Check–Information, commentary and community for Reproductive Health and Justice.

Family planning cuts irk activists January 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Health, Women.
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www.politico.com

By & | 1/29/09

President Barack Obama has been in office for just over a week, but already he has managed to upset some top leaders in a key constituency — women’s groups — after he personally intervened to get family planning funds stripped from the House stimulus package.

Planned Parenthood led the charge, with President Cecile Richards sending an “urgent” e-mail to supporters on Wednesday decrying the deletion — calling it a “betrayal of millions of low-income women, and it will place an even greater burden on state budgets that are already strained to the breaking point.”

“I’m stunned,” she wrote, urging supporters to call the White House.

Other prominent women leaders joined in expressing their disappointment at Obama’s move — which came after Republicans turned up the heat on Obama by highlighting the family planning proposal in the House bill to spur conservative opposition.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said she met with Democratic leaders in Congress Tuesday and received repeated assurances that the money will be restored in another way — but she made clear she’s watching.

“I think the [Obama administration] should have kept it in there,” Gandy said Wednesday in an interview. “But in their political calculus they felt this was something that would pass Congress rather easily as a stand-alone measure and didn’t think was worth fighting for in the stimulus.”

“I think that poor women’s lives are worth fighting for,” Gandy said.

Mary Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said she was “devastated” by Obama’s decision.

But she added, “He’s made commitments to fund family planning and do it quickly. … The president had a tough choice, and he told us he was going to make them and we have to stick with him, and I’m sticking with him because I fully expect really quick action on this,” said Gallagher.

Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed that Obama personally called Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and asked him to drop the provision, just a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended it on national television Sunday morning.

The president “believed that the policy of increased funding for family planning was the right one,” Gibbs said. “He didn’t believe that this bill was the vehicle to make that happen.”

All of the women’s leaders stopped well short of blasting the new White House over the move — appearing not to want to split with the Obama administration so quickly out of the gate and also confident that Obama stands by them in the long run on the issues they care about most.

As Gandy said, “We were definitely told that the Obama administration has a strong commitment to women’s reproductive rights and family planning. This should not be seen as a lessening of that commitment, only as a change of the vehicle.”

But Obama also made clear in recent days that he’s willing to disappoint some of his most ardent supporters in the abortion rights movement to win what in his mind amount to larger political victories.

Last week, Obama seemingly did his best to downplay his decision to reverse U.S. policy that prevented international organizations that offer abortions from receiving American aid money.

At first, women’s groups hailed Obama for overturning the policy. However, the same groups privately grumbled over Obama’s decision not to issue his new order on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the U.S. Obama waited a day, apparently out of deference to abortion opponents who rally in the capital on the anniversary.

In addition, he signed the order away from cameras, late in the afternoon on a Friday, traditionally the time when newsmakers try to keep news out of the headlines.

At the time, Obama also said he wants to reshape the polarized political debate over abortion by highlighting the need to reduce the number of abortions, not the old political fights over the right to choose.

The political reality is that the family planning funding — as much as hundreds of millions in dollars in aid to states to provide those services to poor families — was becoming a too-perfect talking point that Republicans were using to rally conservative opposition to his stimulus plan.

The proposal would have relieved states of the need to seek a waiver from the federal government before spending Medicaid money on family planning services for women who don’t qualify for the ordinary Medicaid program. Women’s health advocates say such services include not only contraception but cancer screenings and regular checkups for low-income women.

And if there was any doubt about the political dangers in the bill, the House Republican campaign committee sent out news releases Wednesday asking if newly elected Democrats in conservative districts backed what Republicans said was a second provision in the legislation — to provide $335 million in funding to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Any serious breach with women’s groups has the potential to reopen lingering wounds from the Democratic primary campaign. Many women’s organizations and prominent feminists backed Hillary Clinton in the primary and came aboard Obama’s campaign only after it became clear he would be the nominee. There were also complaints from some women that Obama and his backers had not paid enough respect to the struggles American women have faced over the years.

In a statement released to Politico on Wednesday afternoon, Richards tempered her words, saying that although the group was “disappointed” the family planning funds were stripped out, “we are confident that … we have [Obama’s] support on this and other critical women’s issues.”

But Planned Parenthood’s e-mailed protest was not well received by Democrats on Capitol Hill, said one Democratic Senate aide who asked to remain anonymous. “That newsletter was completely inappropriate,” said the aide, adding that the action made “zero political sense.”

“There are plenty of opportunities to plus up family planning funds,” the aide said. “A lot of Democratic members and female members felt that didn’t belong in the [stimulus] bill.”

Leaders of women’s groups have one of their own in White House communications director Ellen Moran. She served as executive director of EMILY’s List, an organization that raises money for female candidates who support abortion rights. Moran declined an interview request, referring comment to the White House press office.

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