Stop the covert attempt to criminalize abortion September 20, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health, Women.
Tags: abortion, anti-choice, Canada, pro choice, reproductive rights, Stephen Harper, women's health, women's rights
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I just signed on to this urgent campaign to defend women’s reproductive
rights in Canada. This is an important issue and I hope you’ll join me:
just 48 hours, our MPs will debate a Conservative motion that the Canadian
Medical Association, representing 70,000 doctors, is calling a backdoor attempt
to criminalize abortion.
In 1988, the Supreme Court of
Canada ruled that the abortion provision of the Criminal Code was
unconstitutional. But this week, Parliament will be debating a motion
that would threaten our reproductive rights – and the rights of our friends,
daughters, mothers, sisters, and partners.
Prime Minister Harper has
chosen to allow this motion to go forward to a free vote in Parliament, so every
MP must decide whether or not they will stand up for the rights that women and
our allies have been fighting to protect for decades.
We need a
huge public outcry to show our MPs that Canadians will not tolerate this attack
on women’s rights. Please click here to send an urgent message to your MP to
defeat Motion-312 now – then forward this to
GOP Wants To Be Sure Women/Idiot Children Understand What Rape Is and Get Permission Slips For Pretty Much Everything March 25, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: abby zimet, abortion, abortion rights, alan, Arizona, birth control, dick, gop, idaho, pro choice, reproductive health, reproductive rights, republicans, right wing, roger hollander, women, women's health, women's rights
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org
The surreally awful news in the war on lady parts just keeps coming. An Idaho legislator wants women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and “counselling;” if she was raped, her doctor should make sure she was really raped and not just a participant in “normal relations in a marriage.” Alaska’s State Rep. Alan Dick (really) wants women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound and a written permission slip from the guy who, you know. Arizona wants to make it nigh on impossible to get an abortion, but if you make it through all the legislative hurdles you should have to watch an abortion. Then again, the author of the Arizona bill requiring women to prove to their bosses they are using birth control pills for non-slutty reasons, or get fired, is rewriting the bill because apparently, bewilderingly, some people got upset. Funny: Why don’t we feel better?
Tags: abby zimet, anti-choice, health, misogyny, pro choice, reproductive health, republicans, right wing, roger hollander, ryan mcdougle, west virginia, women, women's health
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03.20.12 – 11:13 AM
by Abby Zimet
With Virginia Republican – and avid supporter of the state’s personhood and ultrasound bills – Ryan McDougle so psyched to get all up into the lady parts of his constituents, they generously obliged him by taking to his Facebook page with to offer detailed reports on their menstrual cycles, cramping and vaginal discharge. His office tried to delete them; too late.
“Senator McDougle, I am almost 49 and STILL menstruating with no sign of slowing down! Frankly, I’ve had enough of this inconvenience – the cost of pads and pain reliever and all the mess – well YOU know how it is. You’re an expert on this lady stuff.”
Pro-Choice ‘Doonesbury’ Too Much for Many US Papers March 12, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Health, Media, Women.
Tags: abortion, doonesbury, garry trudeau, hb 15, Media, political satire, pro choice, rape, reproductive health, reproductive rights, roger hollander, wiomen's rights, women
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Fans of Garry Trudeau’s ‘Doonesbury’ may have to adjust their reading habits this week as many US newspapers have decided to move the popular comic strip from its place on the comics page to the editorial section. Some papers, in fact, have decide to drop the strip entirely after they saw that this week’s arch would be grappling with a rash of new state laws across the country that will require women seeking abortions to submit to state-run ultrasounds and other invasive procedures.
The Los Angeles Times is one of the papers that has decided to run the series, but will move it from the comic pages, where it normally appears, to their Op-Ed page. Explaining the decision, Sue Horton, the Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, said, “We carry both op-eds and cartoons about controversial subjects, and this is a controversial subject.”
And The Guardian in the UK, which also runs the strip, reported today:
Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau has defended his cartoon strip about abortion, which several US newspapers are refusing to run, saying he felt compelled to respond to the way Republicans across America are undermining women’s healthcare rights.
The strip, published on Monday and scheduled to run all week, has been rejected by several papers, while others said they were switching it from the comic section to the editorial page.
In an email exchange with the Guardian, Trudeau expressed dismay over the papers’ decision but was unrepentant, describing as “appalling” and “insane” Republican state moves on women’s healthcare.
About 1,400 newspapers, including the Guardian, take the Doonesbury cartoon. The Guardian newspaper is running the cartoon as normal on Monday.
The strip deals specifically with a law introduced in Texas and other states requiring a woman who wants to have an abortion to have an ultrasound scan, or sonogram, which will show an image of the foetus and other details, in an attempt to make her reconsider.
It portrays a woman who turns up at an abortion clinic in Texas and is told to take a seat in “the shaming room”. A state legislator asks if she has been at the clinic before and, when she says she had been to get contraceptives, he replies: “Do your parents know you’re a slut?”
Later, she says she does not want an intrusive vaginal examination but is told by a nurse: “The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10-inch shaming wand.” The nurse adds: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”
The Kansas City Star is among the papers not running the cartoon in its normal slot. “We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family-friendly comic page,” an editor told Associated Press. The Star will use a replacement strip offered by the organisation that syndicates Doonesbury, Universal Uclick, and move the abortion one to its editorial pages.
The cartoonist was not surprised about the controversary surrounding the new series, and defended it in several interviews by saying that the new spate of laws was shocking, deplorable, and rife with comic opportunity. “To ignore it,” Trudeau told The Washington Post, “would have been comedy malpractice.” Trudeau’s complete interview with the Posts follows:
Q: In 1985, you decided to pull a week of abortion-related strips satirizing the film “The Silent Scream,” which purported to show the reactions of a fetus. So what’s different now? What spurred you to create an abortion narrative in the current political climate?
A: In my 42 years with UPS, the “Silent Scream” week was the only series that the syndicate ever strongly objected to. [Syndicate president Lee Salem] felt that it would be deeply harmful to the feature and that we would lose clients permanently. They had supported me through so much for so long, I felt obliged to go with their call.
Such was not the case this week. There was no dispute over contents, just some discussion over whether to prepare a substitute week for editors who requested one [which we did].
I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.
Q: After four decades, you’re an expert at knowing the hot-button satiric words and phrases — such as, in the case [this] week, terms such as “10-inch shaming wand.” Can you speak to how you approached writing these strips?
A: Oddly, for such a sensitive topic, I found it easy to write. The story is very straightforward — it’s not high-concept like [the satiric] Little Timmy in “Silent Scream” — and the only creative problem I had to work through was the physician’s perspective. I settled on resigned outrage.
Texas’s HB-15 [bill] isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.
Q: Going back through the history of the strip, I’m surprised not to see a previous abortion strip in “Doonesbury’s” dossier. Have you tackled abortion before?
A: No. Roe v. Wade was decided while I was still in school. Planned Parenthood was embraced by both parties. Contraception was on its way to being used by 99 percent of American women. I thought reproductive rights was a settled issue. Who knew we had turned into a nation of sluts?
Q: Over the past 40 years, “Doonesbury” helped change the comics game for many newspapers and comics creators themselves. Do you think newspaper editors have “loosened up” over time regarding comics? Or have they grown more reluctant or skittish — or, even worse, dispassionate?
A: It’s a mix, but in general I spend much less time playing defense, presumably because of the ubiquity of topical satire these days. “South Park” and “The Daily Show” have stretched the envelope so much, most editors no longer see “Doonesbury” as the rolling provocation they once did.
Plus, I think I get a bit of a pass simply because I’ve been around so long. After all this time, editors know pretty much what they’re going to get with the strip.
Stop the Flood of Commie Sexy Lesbian Transgender Abortion-Loving Thin Mints Before It’s Too Late February 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Indiana, LGBT, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: abby zimet, abortion, family values, girl scouts, gsa, indiana, indiana politics, lesbians, lgbt, planned parenthood, pro choice, rep. bob morris, right wing, roger hollander, sex education, transgender, women, women's rights
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Roger’s note: I have long suspected the Girl Scouts of being a subversive organization and a threat to national security. These thoughts began for me when, as a young impressionable youth at summer boy scout camp (Camp Mohican, New Jersey), adjacent girl scouts were a constant temptation to our state of mind and bodily purity. It is obvious that young girls should not be allowed to “scout” when they need to be learning how to cook, clean house and — above all — obey. We can thank Indiana representative Morris for exposing this insidious danger. Repeat after me: NO GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! Try substituting genetically modified foods. It is good for the economy.
Okay, deep breath here as we confront yet another insidious threat to our great Republic. Asked to sign an Indiana House resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, alert GOP lawmaker Rep. Bob Morris did some research and found “disturbing” evidence that the group is a “radicalized organization” and “tactical arm of Planned Parenthood” that supports abortion, promotes homosexuality, encourages girls to have sexy sex, believes in giving basic human rights to transgender females and otherwise works for “the destruction of traditional American family values.” Understandably, Morris thus voted – alone – to oppose the resolution. He also plans to yank his daughters out of the grasp of these heathens and take them to American Heritage Girls Little Flowers, where they will “learn about values and principles that will not confuse their conservative Hoosier upbringing,” and hopefully enter a 12-step program to free themselves of the addictive grasp of Thin Mints and other ungodly items. We wish them well.
From the Journal-Gazette of Fort Wayne, the text of letter from Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, to fellow lawmakers.
February 18, 2012
Members of the Republic Caucus
Dear Fellow Representatives:
This past week I was asked to sign a House Resolution recognizing the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts of America. After talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing. The Girl Scouts of America and their worldwide partner, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood. You will not find evidence of this on the GSA/WAGGGS website—in fact, the websites of these two organizations explicitly deny funding Planned Parenthood.
Nonetheless, abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars. Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver last year warned parents that “membership in the Girl Scouts could carry the danger of making their daughters more receptive to the pro-abortion agenda.”
A Girl Scouts of America training program last year used the Planned Parenthood sex education pamphlet “Happy, Healthy, and Hot.” The pamphlet instructs young girls not to think of sex as “just about vaginal or anal intercourse.” “There is no right or wrong way to have sex. Just have fun, explore and be yourself!” it states. Although individual Girl Scout troops are not forced to follow this curriculum, many do. Liberal progressive troop-leaders will indoctrinate the girls in their troop according to the principles of Planned Parenthood, making Bishop Conley’s warning true.
Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles. In fact, the Girl Scouts education seminar girls are directed to study the example of role models. Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists. World Net Daily, in a May 2009 article, states that Girl Scout Troops are no longer allowed to pray or sing traditional Christmas Carols.
Boys who decide to claim a “transgender” or cross-dressing life-style are permitted to become a member of a Girl Scout troop, performing crafts with the girls and participate in overnight and camping activities – just like any real girl. The fact that the Honorary President of Girl Scouts of America is Michelle Obama, and the Obama’s are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda of Planned Parenthood, should give each of us reason to pause before our individual or collective endorsement of the organization.
As members of the Indiana House of Representatives, we must be wise before we use the credibility and respect of the “Peoples’ House” to extend legitimacy to a radicalized organization. The Girl Scouts of America stand in a strong tradition that reflects with fidelity the traditional values of our homes and our families. The tradition extends from coast-to-coast and back through the past one hundred years. That said, I challenge each of you to examine these matters more closely before you extend your name and your reputation to endorse a group that has been subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values.
I have two daughters who have been active in the Girl Scouts of Limberlost Council in Northeastern Indiana. Now that I am aware of the influence of Planned Parenthood within GSA and other surprisingly radical policies of GSA, my two daughters will instead become active in American Heritage Girls Little Flowers organization. In this traditional group they will learn about values and principles that will not confuse their conservative Hoosier upbringing.
I have been told that, as of today, I am the only member not supporting the Girl Scout Resolution.
I challenge each of you to examine these matters and to decide carefully whether or not to sign the resolution.
The deep roots of the war on contraception February 15, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, History, Religion, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion rights, Barry Goldwater, Bill Clinton, birth control, catholic bishops, catholic church, conservatism, contraception, ellen chesler, fdr, George W. Bush, history, lbj, margaret sanger, planned parenthood, pro choice, reagan, religion, reproductive freedom, roger hollander, women's health
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The uproar over Obama’s decision stems from tensions between Democrats and Catholics that date back to FDR and LBJ
(Credit: Library of Congress/The White House)
Republicans for Planned Parenthood last week issued a call for nominations for the 2012 Barry Goldwater award, an annual prize awarded to a Republican legislator who has acted to protect women’s health and rights. Past recipients include Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who this week endorsed President Obama’s solution for insuring full coverage of the cost of contraception without exceptions, even for employees of religiously affiliated institutions. And that may tell us all we need to know about why President Obama has the upper hand in a debate over insurance that congressional Tea Partiers have now widened to include anyone who seeks an exemption.
It’s a long time ago, but it is worth remembering that conservative avatar Goldwater was in his day an outspoken supporter of women’s reproductive freedom — a freethinker who voted his conscience over the protests of Catholic bishops and all others who tried to claim these matters as questions of conscientious liberty and not sensible social policy. With Goldwater on his side, Obama sees a clear opening for skeptics wary of the extremism that has captured Republican hopefuls in thrall to the fundamentalist base that controls the GOP presidential primary today. Holding firm on family planning — even if it means taking on the Catholic hierarchy and other naysayers by offering a technical fix that would have insurers cover costs instead of the churches themselves — is a calculated political strategy by the Obama campaign, not a blunder as it has been characterized by many high powered pundits, including progressives like Mark Shields of PBS and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.
Recent public opinion polling on the subject is worth reconsidering. For years, it has been perfectly clear that a substantial majority of Americans see the value of expanding access to contraception and reliable sex education as essential tools to prevent unwanted pregnancy and abortion and to help women balance the competing demands of work and family. But unlike a zealous minority on the other side, these moderates have not necessarily privileged these social concerns over important questions of economics or national security that mattered more to them at election time.
That’s what seems to be changing. With his now-famous “nope, zero” response last spring, President Obama simply shut down Republicans in Congress who wanted to defund family planning as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit. The action elicited a sudden surge in his popularity, especially in the highly contested demographic of women voters between the ages of 30 and 49 who voted for him in 2008 but wound up frustrated by failed promises and disappointing economic policies. Campaign polling has since uncovered a big opening for Obama with this group because they are furious over Republican social extremism. An astonishing 80 percent of them disapproved of congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood last spring. Polling among Catholics in response to last week’s controversy shows identical patterns, with 57 percent overall supporting the Obama “compromise” to ensure full coverage of contraception, according to reporting by Joe Conason in The National Memo, and cross-tabs demonstrating much higher margins of support from Catholic women, Latinos, and independent Catholic voters — all prime Obama election targets.
If the numbers are so persuasive, why then have Republican conservatives strayed so far from the greater tolerance of the Goldwater age? Why have they allowed the family planning issue to tie their candidates up in knots in 2012? The answer is in just how outsized the influence of a minority viewpoint can be on a political party, so long as it represents the base of that party’s support.
A bit of history going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal is instructive. Back then, birth control was still illegal in this country, still defined as obscene under federal statutes that remained as a legacy of the Victorian era, even though many states had reformed local laws and were allowing physicians to prescribe contraception to married women with broadly defined “medical” reasons to plan and space their childbearing.
The movement’s pioneer, Margaret Sanger, went to Washington during the Great Depression, anticipating that Franklin Roosevelt, whose wife Eleanor was her friend and neighbor in New York, would address the problem and incorporate a public subsidy of contraception for poor women into the safety net the New Deal was constructing. What Sanger failed to anticipate, however, was the force of the opposition this idea would continue to generate from the coalition of religious conservatives, including urban Catholics and rural fundamentalist Protestants who held Roosevelt Democrats captive, much as they have today captured the GOP. It was Catholic priests, and not the still slightly scandalous friend of the First Lady, who wound up having tea at the Roosevelt White House.
The U.S. government would not overcome moral and religious objections until the Supreme Court protected contraceptive use under the privacy doctrine created in 1965 under Griswold v. Connecticut. That freed President Lyndon Johnson to incorporate family planning programs into the country’s international development programs and into anti-poverty efforts at home. As a Democrat still especially dependent on Catholic votes, however, Johnson only agreed to act once he had the strong bipartisan support of his arch rival Barry Goldwater’s endorsement and also the intense loyalty and deft maneuvering of Republican moderates like Robert Packwood of Oregon in the Senate. Packwood, in turn, worked alongside Ohio’s Robert Taft, Jr. in the House and a newcomer from Texas by the name of George H. W. Bush. Bush would remain a staunch advocate of reproductive freedom for women until political considerations during the 1980 presidential elections, when he was on the ticket with Ronald Reagan, accounted for one of the most dramatic and cynical public policy reversals in modern American politics.
Reagan had supported California’s liberal policies on contraception and abortion as governor, and Bush as Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to the United Nations had helped shape the UN’s population programs. But Republican operatives in 1980 saw a potential fissure in the traditional New Deal coalition among Catholics uncomfortable with the new legitimacy given to abortion after Roe v. Wade and white southern Christians being lured away from the Democrats around the issue of affirmative action and other racial preferences. Opposition to abortion instantly became a GOP litmus test, and both presidential hopefuls officially changed stripes.
Fast forward to 1992 and the election of Bill Clinton as America’s first pro-choice president, coupled with the Supreme Court’s crafting of a compromise decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that put some limits on access to abortion but essentially preserved the core privacy doctrine of Roe v. Wade. The perceived double threat of these political and judicial developments unleashed a new and even more powerful conservative backlash that took aim not only at abortion, but at contraception and sex education as well.
Exploiting inevitable tensions in the wake of profound social and economic changes occurring across the country as the result of altered gender roles and expectations — changes symbolized and made all the more palpable by Hillary Clinton’s activist role as First Lady — conservatives, with the support of powerful right-wing foundations and think tanks, poured millions of dollars into research and propaganda promoting family values and demonizing reproductive freedom, including emotional television ads that ran for years on major media outlets. A relentless stigmatizing of abortion, along with campaigns of intimidation and outright violence against Planned Parenthood and other providers, had a chilling effect on politicians generally shy of social controversy. And Bill Clinton’s vulnerability to charges of sexual misconduct left his administration and his party all the more defensive.
Since the welfare reform legislation of 1996, aptly labeled a “Personal Responsibility Act,” not only has access to abortion been curtailed, but funds for family planning programs at home and abroad have been capped. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated to the teaching of sexual abstinence, rather than more comprehensive approaches to sex education. Just as tragically, U.S. programs addressing the crisis of HIV/AIDS — admirably expanded during the presidency of George W. Bush — were nonetheless made to counsel abstinence and oppose the use of condoms and other safe sex strategies, leaving women and young people all the more vulnerable to the ravages of the epidemic.
Empirically grounded studies over and over again undermined the efficacy of these approaches, which also flew in the face of mainstream American viewpoints and basic common sense. With Barack Obama’s election they have largely been revoked, enflaming the conservative base that put them in place and has lived off the salaries supported by government funding for faith-based social policy.
Even more disheartening to conservative true believers is the promise that the Affordable Care Act will vastly expand access to contraception by providing insurance coverage for oral contraceptives. This guarantee, endorsed by all mainstream health advocates, also includes emergency contraception, popularly known as the morning-after pill, that holds the promise of further reducing unwanted pregnancy and abortion and was meant to offer common ground in an abortion debate long defined by a clash of absolutes. The strong dose of ordinary hormones in emergency contraception act primarily by preventing fertilization, just like daily contraceptive pills, but in rare instances may also disable a fertilized egg from implanting by weakening the uterine lining that it needs for sustenance, causing opponents to vilify it as an abortifacient.
Supporting the Obama policy changes, on the other hand, is a new generation of progressive activists in reproductive health and rights organizations, energized by the intensity of the assaults against them, and now well-armed to educate and activate their own supporters by using traditional grassroots strategies and more sophisticated social networking. No institution has been more important in this effort than Planned Parenthood, with its vast networks of affiliates and supporters in every state, millions more supporters online, and a powerful national political and advocacy operation based in Washington D.C. that has been put to use to great effect in recent months.
The strength of the Planned Parenthood brand, coupled with the organization’s demonstrated ability to rally hundreds of thousands of supporters when it is attacked, has helped overcome traditional political reticence on reproductive justice issues. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is already out with a strong new appeal warning politicians that women are watching. “Enough is enough. Back off on birth control,” is the new advocacy mantra.
Mindful of the numbers — and with the added ballast of what now amounts to a daily drumbeat of progressive television talk and comedy that delights in pillorying Republican prudery — Democrats are intensifying their resolve to take on this fight. Two things we can be sure of: Whoever emerges from the bloodbath of the GOP contest will try and backtrack from the birth control extremism of the primary. And Obama supporters, backed up by the advocacy community, will in turn stand ready to pounce on this inevitable flip-flopping.
Both sides may well summon the spirit and words of Barry Goldwater, who cautioned against allowing faith-based extremism to gain control of the Republican Party. “Politics and governing demand compromise,” he told John Dean, who reports on the conversation in his 2006 book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.” “But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know. I’ve tried to deal with them.”
- Ellen Chesler is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and author of “Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America.” More Ellen Chesler
Tags: affordable care act, birth control, catholic bishops, catholic church, catholics for choice, contraception, jodi jacobson, naral, preventive health care, pro choice, religion, religious liberty, reproductive choice, roger hollander, timothy dolan, women's health, women's health amendment
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Women’s health and rights organization are asking supporters of contraceptive coverage to send a message to the White House. Planned Parentood’s action is here.
This week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) threw itself a pity party in Baltimore. According to the bishops, their “religious liberty” is threatened unless they are able to ensure that every single person in the United States (well, actually the world) is made to follow Catholic canon law to the letter. According to the New York Times, the bishops are “recasting their opposition” to same-sex marriage, birth control, and other fundamental aspects of public health and human rights, because they view both government and culture as infringing on the church’s rights.
“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference Monday at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”
But the sacristy is where the vast majority of Catholics appear to believe the bishops should be focusing their efforts. The Times notes that in light of the ongoing evidence of massive cover-ups by the Vatican and the USCCB of the priest pedophilia scandal, the bishops’ “pronouncements on politics and morality have been met with indifference even by many of their own flock.”
The bishops issue guidelines for Catholic voters every election season, a document known as “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which is distributed in many parishes. But the bishops were informed at their meeting on Monday that a recent study commissioned by Fordham University in New York found that only 16 percent of Catholics had heard of the document, and only 3 percent had read it.
Nonetheless, the Bishops believe their own right to practice their religion is threatened by your right to practice yours or to act as a moral agent in your own life. Their freedom of religion is threatened unless they can ensure that all LGBT persons are denied the right to marry or adopt children. It is threatened unless all women are denied the rights to decide whether and when to have children. It is threatened unless a Catholic hospital can let a woman die from complications of pregnancy rather than provide her with or even refer her on an emergency basis for a life-saving abortion. It is threatened unless a two-celled fertilized egg has more rights than the living, breathing woman in whose body it floats.
They are not “free” until you are not free.
And they certainly are not “free” unless women are denied access to affordable birth control.
An integral part of the Affordable Care Act is the new benefit requiring health plans to cover preventive health care, including cancer screenings, immunizations, and birth control, with no co-pays. Inclusion of these benefits came about through dogged efforts by female legislators, including an amendment authored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), known as the Women’s Health Amendment. The Department of Health and Human Services, tasked with implementing health reform through regulations and oversight, took the advice of an expert panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service because it is basic health care, and because it improves health outcomes for women and their families. Research shows that improved access to birth control is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality among other health benefits. The IOM recommendations are supported by a vast amount of research and affirmed by the World Health Organization, the International College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association among many other medical and public health bodies.
Regulations promulgated by HHS this summer mandate coverage in all employee-based health plans of contraceptive methods without a co-pay. The current provision includes what many already consider to be a sweeping refusal clause, exempting certain religious organizations for which religious values are their primary purpose; that primarily employ persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; that primarily serve persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; and that are nonprofit organizations. The regulations would still require institutions such as Catholic hospitals–for which one assumes the primary purpose is evidence-based health care–and universities (primary purpose, education?) to offer insurance that covers contraception without a co-pay. Nothing (repeat: NOTHING) in this new benefit requires an organization to dispense birth control, or an individual to take it. This is simply a matter of ensuring women have access to affordable preventive care by providing it with no co-pays. For an excellent and thorough review of this issue, read the testimony of Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien.
Still, this has so riled the USCCB that Archbishop Timothy Dolan took his lobbying straight to President Obama, with whom he met privately at the White House last week. In what I take to be a somewhat ominous comment, Dolan stated at a news conference that he “found the president of the United States to be very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community.”
“I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.”
By “Catholic community,” Dolan clearly means the USCCB, the Vatican and the male hierarchy, certainly not the community constituted by the people–or the women–of the church.
Word on the street now–through off-the-record conversations with health groups–is that the White House is considering caving on the exemptions for contraceptive coverage.
This would be a grave mistake on Obama’s part.
For women, birth control is about as controversial as toothpaste and as widely used. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2006–2008, 99 percent of ALL women who had ever had sexual intercourse had used at least one method of birth control. This includes, as O’Brien of Catholics for Choice pointed out, the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the US who have used a form of contraception banned by the Vatican.
Moreover, while the most common reason U.S. women use oral contraceptive pills is to prevent pregnancy, 14 percent of pill users—1.5 million women—rely on them exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute called “Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills,” by Rachel K. Jones. More than half (58 percent) of all pill users rely on the method, at least in part, for purposes other than pregnancy prevention–such as reducing cramps or menstrual pain, to help prevent migraines, for treatment of endometriosis—meaning that only 42 percent use the pill exclusively for contraceptive purposes.
The contraceptive coverage provision under health reform is widely-supported by female voters, a critical constituency in the 2012 election. Public polling shows seventy-one percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support covering birth control at no cost.
So caving to the USCCB on something as fundamental to women’s health, lives and pocketbooks as contraception will not sit well with women, as a recent poll by NARAL Pro-Choice America notes.
“There is a group of women who voted for President Obama in 2008 but are not currently supporting him, and these data suggest many of them should be in his camp,” according to Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a firm that conducted a recent survey for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“Choice provides an opening for President Obama and other Democrats to create a sharp contrast with anti-choice Republicans,” he continued. The “women defectors” are defined as having voted for President Obama in 2008 but are currently not voting for him, weakly supporting him, or holding back from turning out in 2012.
“While the economy is the dominant issue, this survey shows that choice is a stronger, more persuasive issue for bringing key women voters back to President Obama’s camp,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Contraceptive coverage also is an equity issue. As many state contraceptive equity laws make clear and as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled, failing to provide women with coverage for contraception in health plans that otherwise cover prescription drugs and devices is sex discrimination.
State supreme courts in California and New York have both found that contraceptive-equity laws with narrower employer exclusions such as the one put forth by HHS, do not substantially burden a religious belief or practice. In a majority opinion in one of the cases, the justices write:
“[W]hen a religious organization chooses to hire nonbelievers it must, at least to some degree, be prepared to accept neutral regulations imposed to protect those employees’ legitimate interests in doing what their own beliefs permit.” [Catholic Charities of Albany v. Serio, 859 N.E.2d 459, 468 (N.Y. 2006)].
If the requirement for coverage of birth control is weakened, nearly one million people (and their dependents) who work at Catholic hospitals would lose benefits they already have. In addition, the approximately two million students and workers now attending universities that have a religious affiliation would also lose this important benefit. It would mean a further weakening of women’s health and one more step toward theocracy. And it would raise health care costs and result in more unintended pregnancies.
What the Bishops really want is to strong-arm government into imposing restrictions on people’s choices and lives that they can’t even get Catholics to follow. They want to be able to receive federal funding, federal grants and contracts, get tax breaks and special treatment over other groups for building Catholic hospitals, maintain tax-exempt status while flouting lobbying rules, and play the victim card whenever they can’t avoid laws meant to advance health and human rights. And they are aided and abetted in their efforts by other far-right my-way-or-the-highway-on-religion organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, as well as a considerable number of GOP and Tea Party members of Congress. New efforts by conservatives to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act, for example, also threaten women’s health. Nothing drives the patriarchy more batty than the notion of women being anything other than breeding cows.
So it takes some imagination–and I have not mustered anywhere nearly enough–to understand why the Obama Administration would EVEN. THINK. TWICE. about caving to the Bishops. Obama needs women to come out for him in the 2012 election, he campaigned on and promised adherence to science and evidence in the creation of policy, and he promised that under health reform people would not lose benefits they already had, a promise he has already broken once–big time–when it came to women’s health coverage on abortion care.
There is nothing more fundamental to women’s choices than choosing whether, when and with what partner to become pregnant. There is nothing more fundamental to ensuring the best prospects for all children than to work to ensure every child is a wanted child. And there is nothing less controversial for women than birth control.
If the White House does cave to fundamentalist organizations like the USCCB, (led, it should be underscored, by men), it would appear to have an even more fundamental problem with re-electing this President.
[Several calls to the White House on this issue were not returned by time of publication.]
Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter: @jljacobson
Abortion-Rights Leader Urges Others to ‘Be Bold, Brave’ October 13, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: abortion rights, carina woudenberg, guttmacher institute, harriet hills stinson, illegal abortion, jackie speier, naral, planned parenthood, pro choice, reproductive health, republicans for choice, roger hollander, women's rights
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For some women, the decision to have an abortion is agonizing, a source of lingering regret.
Longtime women’s rights champion Harriet Hills Stinson revealed that she had an illegal abortion in her 20s. (Photo: Sarah Rice / Special to The Chronicle)
For Harriet Stinson, it was a simple choice, one that she has never second-guessed. She had three children already when she became pregnant for a fourth time, and she didn’t think she could handle the stress of another.
Stinson, a longtime leader of the Bay Area abortion-rights movement, shared her story for the first time publicly Wednesday in front of 600 people at a luncheon in Palo Alto put on by NARAL Pro-Choice California.
Now 85, the San Mateo resident said she disclosed this deeply personal chapter from her past to encourage other women to speak out about their experiences. She hopes to combat the stigma attached to abortion and reinforce the importance of sex education and contraception for young people.
“We’ve got to be bold and brave and do something drastic, and this is drastic,” Stinson told the crowd at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel.
Stinson becomes the second prominent Peninsula woman this year to relate the experience of having an abortion. During an emotional fight over funding for Planned Parenthood in February in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jackie Speier announced that she had to terminate a pregnancy nearly 20 years ago due to a medical complication when she was 17 weeks pregnant.
Stinson’s history of leadership in the local abortion-rights arena includes founding a Planned Parenthood branch in San Mateo and starting the first U.S. jail family-planning program. She also established the now-defunct political group California Republicans for Choice, an organization that educated and backed Republican candidates who supported abortion rights.
Stinson was in her late 20s when she underwent her abortion.
She had been using birth control, but it failed. The lack of sleep from raising three young children was causing her such stress that she had the urge to act out violently toward them whenever her sleep was disrupted. Her late husband, an obstetrician, performed the procedure himself.
Today, Stinson has five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
She said she adores her family and doesn’t think it would have turned out the same if she hadn’t made the choice to have an abortion nearly 60 years ago.
Three-fourths of women who undergo abortions say having the baby would interfere with their professional lives or their ability to care for dependents, according to research compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reproductive health. Abortions have been in a general decline since the late 1970s, according to the institute. The number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 fell from 29.1 in 1981 to 19.6 in 2008.
Despite the drop in the rate of procedures, Stinson said abortion rights remain under attack. She said she’ll be happy if her words Wednesday encourage others to step up and fight for those rights.
Liz Figueroa, of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in San Jose, said Stinson serves as a good role model.
“Fearless is the word that comes to mind,” she said. “These stories are not easy to tell. When you have leaders like that, it makes it so much easier to follow.”
Tags: abortion, africa aids, birth control, gag rule, HIV/AIDS, legal abortion, michelle chen, pro choice, reproductive health, right wing, roger hollander, women's choice, women's health, women's rights
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While Congress was playing fiscal roulette last month, House Republicans quietly advanced their attack on reproductive choice, too. Conservative legislators are working to reinstate the so-called Global Gag Rule, which would block international aid to organizations that provide abortion-related information and services in other countries. Exporting their domestic anti-abortion agenda to the Global South, conservatives seek to hold international family planning programs hostage to America’s culture wars.
On top of the gag-rule revival, House Republicans are also attacking family-planning funding overall, by trying to kill U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
The proposed policy, part of a larger bill funding the State Department, is based on a Bush administration executive order that President Obama repealed. Under the previous gag rule, overseas organizations receiving U.S. family-planning funds were not allowed to provide abortion-related care or counseling, to help women avoid unsafe abortions, or to advocate on abortion issues. In addition to damaging women’s health, the policy undermined political dialogue on providing comprehensive family planning in aid-dependent countries. The bill passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month.
But the new gag rule would go beyond previous executive orders (Bush’s policy was a reinstatement of Ronald Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy,” which Bill Clinton rescinded) by codifying an expanded version of the restrictions in federal law.
Ellen Marshall, a foreign policy consultant with the International Women’s Health Coalition, said the political forces driving the gag rule were
completely irresponsible in [their attempt] to block contraceptive and other sexual and reproductive health services for women, including services that prevent the need for abortion—all in the name of ending abortion. Doubly troubling is their willingness to stomp all over people’s right to speech and to participate in public and political dialogue in their own countries, as a condition for receiving U.S. assistance.
On top of the gag-rule revival, House Republicans are also attacking family-planning funding overall, by trying to kill U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund.
The federal budget doesn’t account for the grim mathematics of this global reproductive health crisis. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that every $10 million that is cut from international family planning and reproductive health aid means “610,000 fewer women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies, 190,000 more unintended pregnancies, and 82,000 more unplanned births.” Ultimately, reports the Huffington Post, the “pro-life” family-planning cuts proposed by the GOP would lead to roughly 7,700 maternal deaths and leave about 35,000 more children without mothers.
If reinstated, the gag rule would affect groups serving in a huge swath of the Global South, because the majority of countries that receive USAID funds allow some form of legal abortion, according to a 2009 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The Bush gag rule had a massive ripple effect, according to Population Action International:
shipments of U.S.-donated condoms and contraceptives completely ceased to 16 developing countries, primarily in Africa. Leading family planning agencies in another 16 countries—mostly in Africa—have lost access to much-needed U.S. condoms and contraceptives as a result of their refusal to accept the gag rule restrictions.
In Kenya, the rule led to major funding losses for two large service providers, FPAK and MSI Kenya, which had to severely curtail their community health outreach and clinic programs:
Funding shortages have also led to a lack of regular contraceptive technology updates for community health workers. As a result, community health workers are uninformed of the types of family planning methods available to HIV-positive people. They avoid discussing condoms or reproductive health issues because their training has been restricted. Yet an emerging public health challenge involves those HIV-positive Kenyan women who are sexually active and desire pregnancy, but do not have the knowledge or tools to prevent transmission of the virus to their child.
The struggle against HIV/AIDS in Africa has been further hindered by the so-called “anti-prostitution pledge” embedded in the U.S.’s global HIV/AIDS funding program. The policy forces groups to actively disavow activities that may be considered supportive of sex workers. A federal appeals court recently ruled that the pledge amounted to overreach when applied to certain U.S.-based groups working overseas, but the restriction remains in force for foreign groups.
The groups at risk of getting gagged are a critical, often singular resource for women who are exposed to all forms of violence and exploitation. And this is another sad parallel between domestic and foreign policy: barriers to abortion and family planning services in the U.S. most acutely impact the health of poor women and women of color.
The gag rule isn’t about preempting direct taxpayer support for abortions; that’s already ensured under the policy known as the Helms Amendment.* Rather, the gag rule punishes overseas organizations that are focused broadly on women’s health needs. As the Center for American Progress puts it, “Under the global gag rule, these organizations face a choice: either participate in the American right’s global campaign to restrict women’s rights and access to reproductive health care or lose critical U.S. funding.”
The latest attempt to resurrect the gag rule is particularly threatening because many of the countries at risk now face unprecedented health challenges, from gender-based violence in war to refugee crises to a global epidemic of preventable maternal deaths.
International aid often serves as a cudgel for exporting conservatives’ domestic anti-choice campaigns (read: the wholesale defunding of Planned Parenthood). Marshall told Colorlines that it’s easier to use foreign policy as a “test market” for measures that would face more resistance in the U.S., she said, “because quite honestly … fewer Americans are likely to get up in arms on restrictions on their foreign assistance dollars, because they don’t see really a direct impact of that.”
In many ways the gag rule reflects endemic problems in the foreign aid funding model, which hinges more on the election cycle than real human needs. Women’s health advocates have long called for a comprehensive, community-oriented approach to aid that integrates reproductive and sexual health together with family planning—and above all, upholds human rights, not just political agendas.
While a wholesale restructuring of foreign aid remains a distant goal, New York Rep. Nita Lowey wants to at least revamp funding for family planning with the proposed Global Democracy Promotion Act. The measure would prevent lawmakers from forcing overseas groups “to sacrifice their right to free speech and their obligation to provide truthful, comprehensive information to patients in order to participate in U.S. supported programs.”
But in a political arena dominated by deception and stonewalling, promoting integrity in international aid inevitably ranks low on the agenda. In the right’s ongoing quest to gag the movement for reproductive health, the aid that was intended to improve women’s lives has instead been used to smother them.
The War on Contraception Goes Viral May 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: abortion, amanda marcotte, anti-choice, birth control, contraception, family planning, indiana, mitch daniels, planned parenthood, pro choice, religious right, roger hollander, tennessee, women's health, women's rights
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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.