jump to navigation

Idaho Abortion Lawsuit: Jennie Linn McCormack Challenges State Fetal Pain Law September 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Health, Idaho, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

// <![CDATA[

var inst_def = Badges.getUniqName();

window[inst_def.obj_name] = new Badges({
unique_id: inst_def.unique_id,
holder_id: "badges_v2_1",
panel_layout: 8,
complete_callback_func_name: "",
share_details_callback: false,
additional_panel_classes: "",
entry_params: {
"id" : 944351,
"title" : "Idaho Abortion Lawsuit: Jennie Linn McCormack Challenges State Fetal Pain Law",
"created_on": 1314844320,
"vertical_name": "Politics",
"tweet_comm_hash" : "",
"tweet_comm_text" : "",
"force_fb_like" : 1
},

global_name: "window." + inst_def.obj_name
});

// =====================================================
// Now goes logic for every layout

window[inst_def.obj_name].setPanelBorderStyle("glamorous_4");

var slices = {
1: "facebook_glamorous",
2: "retweet_glamorous",
3: "email_glamorous",
4: "google_plusone_glamorous"
};

// checking for ie7 safari 3 and ff 3.5 browsers because +1 badge not work
if ((jQuery.browser.mozilla && (jQuery.browser.version <= '1.9.2'))
|| (jQuery.browser.msie && (jQuery.browser.version <= '7.0'))
|| (jQuery.browser.safari && (jQuery.browser.version Roger’s note: aren’t you touched by the compassion of the Fundamentalist Christian Right (Wrong) and their concern for foetal pain (although it’s all right to bomb into smithereens Muslim civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan)? And their passion for preventing the government from impinging on individual freedom (like the freedom to pollute the planet into oblivion) but somehow doesn’t include a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions).

 By REBECCA BOONE 08/31/11 08:41 PM ET AP

Jennie Linn McCormack filed suit in federal court against Bannock County’s prosecuting attorney, contending Idaho’s new law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy violates the Constitution.

Idaho is one of six states that have enacted such bans in the two years. The bans are based on the premise that a fetus may feel pain at 20 weeks.

McCormack, who was briefly charged with having an illegal abortion, is seeking class-action status in her lawsuit against prosecutor Mark Hiedeman. The suit also challenges other parts of Idaho abortion law.

McCormack was charged with a felony in June after police said she took pills to terminate her pregnancy last December. Police found the fetus in a box at McCormack’s Pocatello home Jan. 9, and an autopsy determined it was between five and six months gestation. Police said McCormack told them she didn’t have enough money to go to a licensed medical professional, so her sister helped her access abortion-inducing drugs online.

A judge later dismissed the criminal case without prejudice for lack of evidence. That means the prosecutor may refile charges if he chooses, unless the federal courts stop him from doing so.

In the lawsuit, McCormack challenges the lack of access to abortions for women in her region, as well as the ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

She notes there are no elective-abortion providers in southeastern Idaho, forcing women seeking the procedure to travel elsewhere.

McCormack was unmarried and unemployed at the time of her pregnancy – with an income of $200 to $250 a month – and already had three children. She couldn’t afford the time or money it would take to travel to Salt Lake City to get an abortion, the lawsuit says.

If McCormack prevails, it will be a win for women across the region, said her attorney, Richard Hearn of Pocatello.

“If we’re successful, they’ll be able to access legal and safe abortions in southeastern Idaho,” whether performed with medicine or surgically in a clinic, Hearn said Wednesday.

Hiedeman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Idaho law bars women from getting abortions from anyone but licensed Idaho physicians, and requires that second-trimester abortions be performed in a hospital. Women who purposely cause their own abortions, or who get abortions from unlicensed physicians, face up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

McCormack is asking a judge to find that those criminal sanctions are unconstitutional, in part because they wrongly burden women in regions like southeastern Idaho that lack abortion providers.

Another Idaho law, passed during the 2011 Legislature, bans abortions once a fetus has reached 20 weeks on the belief that fetuses begin to feel pain at that stage. Idaho was one of five states – along with Kansas, Alabama, Indiana and Oklahoma – that enacted bans modeled after a fetal pain bill passed in Nebraska in 2010.

McCormack says the new law violates the Constitution because it doesn’t contain an exception allowing for abortions if necessary to preserve the mother’s health, and because it prohibits some abortions even before a fetus has reached viability. Roe v. Wade barred states from prohibiting abortions done before the age of viability, and other legal rulings have since determined viability occurs at 22 to 23 weeks gestation.

That contention echoes an opinion written by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office, which advised state lawmakers that the fetal pain bill could be found unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

It’s not the first time Idaho lawmakers have passed abortion laws that they were warned likely would be found unconstitutional. In the past decade, Idaho has spent more than $730,000 to defend restrictive abortion laws that ended up being struck down by courts. Those costly rulings prompted legislative leaders in recent years to require that abortion-related legislation be reviewed by the Idaho attorney general’s office.

Republican state Sen. Chuck Winder, who sponsored Idaho’s fetal pain legislation, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The National Right to Life Committee said Wednesday it believes the law will be upheld.

“Unborn children recoil from painful stimuli, their stress hormones increase when they are subjected to any painful stimuli, and they require anesthesia for fetal surgery,” the group’s legislative director, Mary Spaulding Balch, said in a statement. “We are confident that the Supreme Court will ultimately agree and will recognize the right of the state to protect these children from the excruciatingly painful death of abortion.”

Janet Crepps, director of the U.S. legal program for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said laws like fetal pain bills are both unconstitutional and bad policy. They also are “demeaning to women and their doctors” because they don’t take into account how each woman’s situation is different, she said.

“When you think about all the regulations that are piled onto abortion, it just clearly becomes impossible for doctors to provide them and women to receive them in a situation like McCormack’s,” Crepps said. “It’s a really sad situation.”

___

Associated Press writers John Miller in Boise; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala.; Jennifer O’Malley in Indianapolis; Scott McFetridge in Omaha, Neb.; and Chris Clark in Kansas City, Kansas, contributed to this report.

Sometimes men should just stick to football… but I digress May 5, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: from time to time when I feel the need for a boost to my spirits, I go to www.margaretandhelen.wordpress.com.  The cover photo itself is worth the price of admission.  I usually, not always, agree with Helen.  For one thing I cannot understand her ongoing love affair with Obama, who has long shown his true colors.  Nevertheless, Helen writes with a flolksy charm and wit, and, above all, pulls no punches.  She is a tough old gal, and Sarah Palin is not one of her favorite people.  She’s not that crazy about Fox News either.  Check her out.   Read on …

Margaret, I read the comment you sent me and felt compelled to respond.  I know you don’t like it when I do, but honey you know how I feel about this particular subject.

Dear Readers,

In case you are new to my web page blog, I’ll give you a little background.  I told my friend Margaret that I thought Sarah Palin was a bitch… is a bitch.  Anyway, my grandson really hadn’t fully explained to me that other people could see this page besides Margaret. Which is kind of funny because Margaret actually has to have her husband, Howard, print the pages out for her to read because she doesn’t like computers very much….

But I digress.

So I kept writing about things and more people kept stopping by. Just yesterday I was telling Margaret that I find it very odd that Republicans think government is too big and healthcare for all Americans is just insane.  It doesn’t seem to matter that it would cost less than Bush’s wars… but that would just be unAmerican of me to suggest…afterall Sarah Palin’s son is in that war…

Again, I digress.

 I find it odd because I know that Rick Perry, the Governor of my state, is really upset about how big government has gotten.  Evidently it’s not big enough, however, because ‘ole Ricky seems to think its small enough to crawl up my vagina with a sonogram machine and a recorder so that Ricky can tell me how to think based on what God whispers in his ear when no one else is around.  To be truthful, it could just be something he picked up in church.  I’m not sure.  It might have happened at his office.  It’s really hard to tell the difference between his office and his church these days.

I just can’t seem to stay on subject today…

So that is what I was writing about to my friend Margaret.  And then she had Howard print out my letter and some of your comments.   Sometimes – like last night - she calls me because she gets so worried when one of you gets a little upset.  But I tell her, “Margaret, dear. It’s just the internet.  It’s not like anyone forces them to read it.”  But Margaret worries.  She just wants everyone to get along.  You know.  Agree to disagree and things like that.  Which would be nice except that Governor Ricky wants to pass some new laws.  And once that happens you can’t just agree to disagree.  Once it becomes law if you disagree you have to spend a lot of money with lawyers or go to jail.

But I digress.

So last night some fool  (sorry Margaret) named Noah decided to call you all sheep because you seemed to like what I had written about Ricky.  I wasn’t aware sheep could read, and I have always thought that too often used insult about following like sheep is a bit far-reaching.  Yes.  Survival instincts in sheep tend to mean that one sheep will more than likely follow the sheep in front.  Did you know, however, there is a certain strain of sheep in Iceland known as leadersheep?  Leadersheep are highly intelligent animals that have the instinct to lead a flock home during dangerous and difficult conditions. They have an exceptional ability to sense danger. There are many stories in Iceland of leadersheep saving lives during the fall roundups when blizzards threatened shepherds and flocks alike…

But I digress.

Among other things, Noah decided to leave a little pearl of personal wisdom in his not so well thought out diatribe:

__________

With my wife being almost 7 months pregnant this subject really touches home for me so I can understand the passionate feelings from both sides of the issue. Having gone to the first ultrasound I could never have made a choice to abort the child for any reason. I can understand why the governor wants to have women have that firsthand experience of hearing that heartbeat, it is very powerful. I guess I don’t see a problem if what he is suggesting isn’t stopping all abortions, which he is not and I would be opposed to if he was.

__________

Well isn’t that just precious?  Noah is particularly knowledgeable about this subject because his wife is 7 months pregnant.  Congratulations Noah.  I know my readers will join me in wishing you and your family all the best.  You’re almost there: two more months to go.

I assume your wife had her amniotic fluid test and that everything turned out fine?  It’s a scary time those first few months.  Did you know that if you and your wife learned through the amniocentesis that something had gone terribly wrong with the developing fetus that one of your options might be to terminate the pregnancy?  Sometimes the abnormality of the fetus is significant.  Survival of both the fetus and the mother can be called into question.  [By the way.  I am using the word fetus not to dehumanize but rather because that is what it is called - a fetus] Often women facing this type of heartbreak consult with their doctors, their family members and even their pastor.  I am sure more than a few say a prayer and ask for wisdom.  Did you know, Noah, that if your wife was in that situation and she decided to terminate her pregnancy good ‘ole Rick Perry would still force her to look at a sonogram and listen to a heartbeat so that she can agonize further that the child she wanted so desperately isn’t to be.  I wonder how comforting you would be to her at that moment.  “Look, honey.   I can understand why the governor wants to have women have that firsthand experience of hearing that heartbeat, it is very powerful.”  Thank goodness that you and your wife are not dealing with that.

And I assume, of course, that the child due to arrive in two months is your child?  How blessed for you and your family.  Did you know that if your wife had been raped and subsequently discovered that she was pregnant,  she may not even want to consult with her family, her priest or even her God.  She may want nothing more than to simply ask her doctor to end the unwanted pregnancy so that maybe she can begin to heal from this traumatic experience.  Thank goodness that isn’t your situation Noah.  Can you imagine how horrible it would for a women like your wife in this moment of sadness, anger, disbelief, denial to have Rick Perry then force her to reconsider by showing her a sonogram and letting her listen to a heartbeat.  She’ll have to sign a paper declaring that she watched and listened and still decided to terminate the pregnancy. 

Even worse, Noah.  Imagine if that woman was your daughter.  Do you know the sex of your child yet?  What a world she will get to grow up in.  So very different from your childhood or even mine.  You were there at the invention of the internet.  I was there at the invention of the television.  I also grew up in a world where abortions were illegal Noah.  I watched women die because they had no choices.  You realize that Rick Perry wants that world back, right?  This nonsense about abortions should only be legal in the case of rape or the life of the mother… what a crock.  The world is never so black and white.

But that is not for you Noah.  No. This is a time of great joy and celebration for you and your wife.  Thank goodness.  Some women struggle with the idea of motherhood.  They know deep down inside that bringing a life into this world is a blessing yes - but  also an enormous responsibility and for some the ultimate sacrifice.  To know that another life will depend entirely on your ability to find it within yourself to love so selflessly and care so deeply.  To give birth is not to be taken lightly, Noah.  Some women, after very serious consideration about where they are in life and what they can and can’t offer to a child, decide that they are just not prepared to bring another life into the world.  And after much thought and prayer and probably tears, they still have  Rick Perry there to given them even more to consider.  Thank goodness for thoughtful ‘ole Ricky.

But not you Noah.  Thank goodness you and your wife have made the decision that this is a wanted child… that this will be a loved child… that you have the means to feed and care for this child.   I am sure Rick Perry will be sending you a bouquet of flowers after the delivery to show you how much he cares about the very personal decision you have made.  I hear that just the other day, Rick sent a letter of congratulations to the woman who just delivered her 5th child because her husband feels that using condoms are a sin.  Good ‘ole Rick.  I think his letter said something along the lines of don’t worry about where you will get the money to feed the child because you chose life and that is all that matters.  Good ‘ole Ricky even sent her one of those lovely Choose Life license plates.  She doesn’t own a car, but it’s the thought that counts.

Noah dear.  Stick to football.  And Mrs. Noah?  Slap him for me.   He really should spend more time tending to you rather than writing to me.  But I digress.   I mean it.  Really.

The Morning After Pill Conspiracy March 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

by Cristina Page

If Bush waged a war on science then yesterday the war crime tribunal spoke. The U.S. District court of the Eastern District of New York ruled that the Bush administration had politicized a once respected regulatory agency, the FDA, for bending the law to its right wing purposes. The court’s condemnation was comprehensive and brutal, all but labeling the Bushies political criminals. At issue was the FDA’s decision to overrule its staff recommendation and restrict access for adolescents to one of the most effective methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy, emergency contraception. The Court, in one excoriating stroke, reversed the first (and let’s hope last) ideological decision the FDA ever made.

The decision could not have been more dismissive of the Bush administration’s maneuverings. Mincing no words, the Court concluded that the FDA “acted in bad faith and in response to political pressure,” “departed in significant ways from the agency’s normal procedures,” and engaged in “repeated and unreasonable delays.” The court also found that the FDA’s justification for denying over-the-counter access to minors “lacks all credibility,” and was based on “fanciful and wholly unsubstantiated ‘enforcement’ concerns.” The Court ordered the FDA to reconsider it’s decision based on scientific evidence alone. In the meantime, it ordered the agency to make the contraceptive available over-the-counter to 17-year-olds within 30 days as it now does for adults.

The decision comes amidst news that US teen birth rates are spiking for the second year in a row. Those Bush era virginity pledgers are shifting smoothly into teen motherhood — the legacies of ignorance-only sex education and restricted access to and information about contraception.

The decision was prompted by a case, Tummino v. von Eschenbach, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) in 2005. The plaintiffs in the case were a grassroots groups called the Morning After Pill Conspiracy along with over 70 medical and public health organizations, scientists, and parents. For those who did not follow the case closely it’s worth reviewing not only how the Bushies imposed their theological agenda, but how they indifferently bent regulatory procedures. The administration ruthlessly ignored the facts and coerced FDA scientists to implement its anti-science agenda. According to a CRR press release, “Before its action on Plan B (emergency contraception) the FDA had never restricted a non-prescription drug based on a person’s age, nor had the Bush Administration ever been consulted by the FDA about an over-the-counter drug application. Depositions of senior FDA officials by the Center in 2006 indicated that the Bush Administration sought to unduly influence the agency during the Plan B application review process. Testimony also indicated that officials involved in the decision-making process were concerned about losing their jobs if they did not follow the administration’s political directives.” It was in other words, get with the program.

CRR continued: “Other evidence uncovered during the lawsuit showed that the agency repeatedly departed from its own established procedures during the FDA case, from filling the reproductive health committee with political “operatives” to making a decision to reject over-the-counter access to Plan B before completion of the standard review.”

For years, I’ve been following the right’s takeover of what had been a scientifically driven process. In researching a book, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, I studied the violation of the FDA in detail. One fundamental thing I learned: anti-contraception crusaders were not just interested in limiting access for minors. Their true intent was to prevent all women from easy access to the pregnancy prevention method. Their more uncensored leaders, like Judie Brown of the American Life League, admitted as much, explaining, “the best thing the FDA can do now for the American women and their progeny is to take the next logical step and remove these pills for the market altogether.”

In the service of this goal, it seemed that nothing was off limits, not scientific integrity nor the will of the majority. The decision to limit minors’ access to emergency contraception was based on phony arguments put forth in particular by Bush appointee to the FDA panel, David Hager, a long-standing opponent of contraception. Hager’s supposed concern was that the proven usefulness of the medication would be overshadowed by 9 and 10 year olds who would “abuse” the drug, as if it were some sort of crack for kids. During the application review process, Hager called for unavailable research to quell his “concerns” that the drug would be abused by pre-teens. “The plans for introduction of Plan B into the non-treatment setting need more evaluation if it is going to be generalizably available to a nine year old regardless, a ten year old regardless of, you know; there’s no restriction,” Hager explained.

This line of argument shocked other panel members. One, Dr. Abbey Berenson, a professor of pediatrics and ob/gyn at University of Texas, countered, “I would just like to make a point that it is extremely rare that the nine or ten year old has menstrual cycles and so if we’re going to talk about adolescents, let’s talk about the mean age of menarche in this country is 12, and I can’t imagine where a nine-year-old would get $40 to go buy Plan B over the counter and who would buy it for this nine year old.”

The drug had been studied as part of the effort to determine whether EC was safe. Females from twelve to fifty had been sampled, including sixty-six between the age of twelve and sixteen years old. Adolescents understood 60 to 97 percent of the drug-product package directions and materials, at a comprehension level similar to that of women as a whole and one that easily met standards previously accepted for the approval of the other over-the-counter drugs.

Hager continued to create a straw man, or in this case, straw girl, that defenseless nine or ten year old, and then imagined that she was taken advantage of. It was an argument that none of his illustrious fellow panel members thought had merit. Hager nonetheless persisted: “Well I’m sorry, but there are young women that age [under twelve] who do start menstrual cycles and although the numbers aren’t large, it is enough of a concern that if there’s an 11-year old who is having a menstrual period and becoming sexually active, then she chooses to access this means of emergency contraception, and my only point is not the number. It’s that we don’t have any information available on that younger age population.”

Of course, less than six percent of girls younger than age eleven have started their menses, and 4.2 percent of girls under age thirteen are sexually active. Take that microscopic demographic and divide it by the percent that know EC even exists and who also have $40 to drop and you have the nearly non-existent basis for Hager’s, and what would eventually be the FDA’s, argument against extending over-the-counter access to EC for minors.

After the FDA decision to restrict minor’s access to the contraceptive method, several panel members who favored over-the-counter access expressed their outrage at the decision, writing, “If groups with moral objections wish to prevent the sale of a class of drugs, they should proceed through the legislative process. They should not corrupt the scientific review process of the FDA to achieve their ends. We believe it will be very hard to put this genie back in the bottle. We squander public trust at out peril.”

Today, the US district court finally got the anti-contraception genie, and some of the bullying lawless politics of the Bush era, back in the bottle, at least for now. As for the public’s trust, that’ll take a little longer to fix.

For breaking news on threats to birth control access and information visit birthcontrolwatch.org.

Cristina Page is author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex and spokesperson for birthcontrolwatch.org. Page also is a consultant for several national pro-choice groups and her policy proposals have been adopted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Washington State legislature and the New Jersey State legislature.

The 200 Million Dollar Question January 31, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.

Et tu, Barack? January 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Christine Page, January 27, 2009, www.huffingtonpost.com

Yesterday, the Republicans, accompanied by a sadly uninformed media, led a frenzied bitch fest over the inclusion of a family planning provision in the Democrats’ stimulus package. That provision, a mere $200 million of a $825 billion stimulus package, which represents 1/4 of 1%, or 0.225%, of the overall budget, offered a safety net for Americans who need contraceptive coverage but ordinarily would be ineligible for that assistance.

But the ideology-plagued Republicans, and their media enablers, couldn’t seem to figure out why unemployed Americans without health insurance would possibly want, or need, to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. They seemed mystified that a surprise addition of a new family member could batter a no-income family financially, or when multiplied exponentially, a state, and work against everything a stimulus package is supposed to stimulate. Rep. John Boehner wondered aloud, “How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?”

News story after news story reports that many Americans suffering through the collapse of the economy (like the 71,000 who were laid off yesterday) are, among other lifestyle changes, postponing having a child. Planning when to have a child based on whether you can support one seems like a pretty common sense approach. It could even be described as “responsible” which, you will recall, was the overarching theme of our new president’s inaugural speech. One small part of the stimulus package the Democrats presented offered this family planning safety net for Americans who need contraceptive coverage but ordinarily would be ineligible for that assistance. The staged Republican freak-out revealed the degree to which they are out-of-touch with Americans’ lives, as if we needed another reminder. The more disturbing part is how quickly President Obama surrendered to this pressure. Without a single attempt to explain the importance of family planning in the lives of struggling Americans, the White House distanced itself from the provision. After a day of bizarre media misinterpretation of the proposal, Obama spokesman, Bill Burton, told Cybercast News Service that it was not Obama’s idea and that “the principles of what he thought should be in the package–that wasn’t part of that.”

Yet just last Friday Obama, in a statement accompanying his rescinding of the Global Gag Rule, recognized the importance family planning plays in “promoting global economic development” and promised “In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning.” Unless he meant fresh as in impudent and presumptuous, I’m confused. If family planning can promote economic development globally, why won’t it here?

Experts say, it would. According Cory Richards, VP of Public Policy at the Guttmacher Institute, wrote on RH Reality Check,

“Assisting states with their Medicaid programs is a proven and effective strategy for stimulating the economy in times of economic distress. That’s why the stimulus package contains $87 billion to help states with Medicaid costs. One can only assume that Rep. Boehner’s singling out for criticism the Medicaid spending for contraception is politically motivated.Not only is it politically motivated, it is highly ironic coming from a self-described fiscal conservative who repeatedly says the stimulus package should include spending that doesn’t increase the deficit. When the Congressional Budget Office assessed a virtually identical provision in 2007, it found that it would save the federal government $200 million over five years by helping women voluntarily avoid pregnancies that otherwise would result in Medicaid-funded births. An expansion such as the one permitted by the stimulus package could save Rep. Boehner’s state of Ohio $1.4 million in 2009 – money that could make a real difference in a hard-hit state that is struggling with significant budget shortfalls.”

 

The Republican opposition to the family planning provision is without merit but does serve as a perfect tool to misrepresent a thoughtful stimulus package; one that takes in to consideration real people’s lives. And this misrepresentation found a bullhorn in a media that
likes to go light on the facts, especially with regard to reproductive health. (The Republicans and the media, both of which like to think of themselves as loyal opposition, may make a powerful, reckless, and frightening pair.) On his show, Chris Matthews compared the family planning provision in the stimulus package to China’s coercive abortion policy stating:

“I don’t know. It sounds a little like China. I think everybody should have family planning and everybody believes in birth control as a right. I’m for — abortion is a right and all that. It’s all right. But why should the federal government have a policy of reducing the number of births?”

On Fox News, Neil Cavuto bizarrely argued that unwanted pregnancies are good for the economy because, “You want more people eventually in this country paying into social security because you have more people retiring.”

James Pethokoukis, blogger for US News and World Reports, abandoned all journalistic integrity when covering the stimulus package and got all misty-eyed about unwanted pregnancy, stating “This is wrong on so many levels, one of which is looking at children born to the “wrong people” as economic burdens rather gifts, the music makers, the dreamers of dreams. She sees them as a cost instead of blessed benefits. Wow.” Wow is right, this guy writes for US News and World Reports? Guess those layoffs in the publishing industry weren’t broad enough.

After suffering through eight years of attacks on contraception, we come out the other end with surging teen birth rates in 26 states and increases in STDs. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that the cost to taxpayers (federal, state, and local) of teen childbearing in the United States in 2004 alone was $9.1 billion. We know that for every dollar invested in family planning the federal government saves $4. The Republican distortion campaign will, sadly, prevent Americans from understanding what they already know — especially in hard economic times family planning makes sense.

Update: Today, the House Democrats announced they were dropping the contraception provision from the bill.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 183 other followers