Anti-Choice Activists Flank Trump as He Delivers Final Blow to Family Planning Safeguards April 15, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Poverty, Race, Right Wing, Sexuality, Trump, Uncategorized, Women.
Tags: anti-choice, birth control, christine gfrimaldi, family planning, kellyanne conway, mike pence, planned parenthood, pro choice, roger hollander, title x patients, trump presidency, women's health, women's rights, womens healthcare
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Roger’s note: in addition to its radically increasing war making and killing abroad, and its dismantling of environmental protections, the Trump presidency is creating untold harm domestically, and, naturally, to those most vulnerable: immigrants, refugees, poor people, racial minorities, women, children, seniors, etc. This is an unmitigated disaster.
President Trump on Thursday signed off on congressional Republicans’ push to shred family planning safeguards enacted under the Obama administration.
With the stroke of his pen, Trump officially withdrew an Obama-era rule intended to stop state-level interference in federal funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood affiliates—the real target of the GOP’s ire over the fact that the health-care organization provides abortion care with its own funds. Withdrawing the rule, however, hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care.
Doing so disproportionately impacts people of color. Of the four million Title X patients in 2015, 30 percent self-identified as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native; 32 percent self-identified as Hispanic or Latino; and 13 percent had limited English proficiency.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate wielded an arcane procedural tool known as the Congressional Review Act to undo the Title X rule and other key regulations enacted in the last six months of Obama’s presidency. Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to send the resolution of disapproval (HJ Res. 43) targeting the rule to the president’s desk over the objections of Democrats in the chamber.
Trump signed the bill with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the sponsor of the resolution of disapproval, by his side, according to a White House pool report and an Instagram post from Concerned Women for America President Penny Young Nance. Anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was pictured in another photo with Black and Nance at the White House and also witnessed the signing, per the pool report. The press was not allowed to watch Trump sign the bill.
Rewire‘s Ally Boguhn reported this week on how White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s connections have given anti-choice groups “ready access” to Trump.
Eliminating Title X protections represents the GOP’s latest strike to women’s health-care services that transgender and gender nonconforming people rely on too.
Trump expanded the global gag rule prohibiting foreign nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that receive U.S. family planning aid from providing abortion care or information about the medical procedure using their own funds. And Trump picked up on congressional Republicans’ failed quest to repeal Obamacare, preparing a regulatory war against women’s health-care benefits and a thousand cuts to benefits for vulnerable populations, specifically transgender people, pregnant people, and those with low incomes.
“We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies that take us backward,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes.”
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
The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation February 1, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: anti-choice, anti-women, breast cancer, breast exams, cliff stearns, health education, jane abraham, jodi jacobson, komen foundation, minority women, nancy brinker, native american women, planned parenthood, poor women, right wing, roger hollander, women's health, women's rights
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This week it became clear there are things more important to the Susan G. Komen Foundation–the fundraising giant that each year during breast cancer awareness month virtually swathes the United States in pink, a la Christo–than ensuring women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer.
What could be more important to an organization ostensibly dedicated to the elimination of breast cancer? Answer: The politics and personal agendas of the organization’s senior staff and board, both of which have been infiltrated by right-wing ideologues and both of which were instrumental in a decision to deny further support from Komen affiliates to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide breast exams. In fact, it is now clear that some anti-choicers on Komen’s board and senior staff are actually willing to sacrifice poor women to breast cancer to satisfy their own agendas.
Nationwide, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast cancer screenings annually, offering risk assessments, breast exams, breast health information and education, and diagnostic and surgical referrals. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers have conducted nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams with funds from Komen, out of a total of more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide by Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen grants also supported more than 6,400 out of 70,000 mammogram referrals made by Planned Parenthood. These are affiliate-to-affiliate grants between Komen and Planned Parenthood sister organizations at the state level.
A large share of the clients served at Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income African-American and Latina women. The National Cancer Institute identifies lack of access to early and effective screening for breast cancer (and hence lack of early treatment) as a primary reason that African-American and Latina women die of breast cancer at higher rates than the general population. In fact, Komen itself recognized these links in a 2011 statement lauding its relationship with Planned Parenthood:
While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.
Komen further stated:
These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.
As long as there is a need for health care for these women, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.
But apparently those women no longer matter as Komen’s support has now been withdrawn. Last month, the national office of the Komen Foundation, which maintains tight control over its state affiliates, sent a memo barring those affiliates from using money they had raised at the local level to partner with Planned Parenthood clinics in improving access to breast exams.
Why? Not science, not evidence, not concern for women.
Politics and personal ambition, pure and simple.
It’s no secret that anti-choice legislators at the state and national level have made Planned Parenthood the central focus of their anti-woman agenda, spending well over half of entire legislative sessions in some states focused on cutting funding and limiting access to reproductive health services. At the national level, the ongoing witch hunt aimed at PPFA has taken many forms, one of which includes a “Congressional inquiry” launched by House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). Stearns sent a letter to PPFA in late September 2011 asking for an avalanche of documents to “investigate” whether PPFA has used federal funds to provide abortion services.
In a letter protesting the move, Democrats Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) called the inquiry a politically-motivated waste of time and taxpayer money, stating:
“Planned Parenthood is being singled out as part of a Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men. … The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood … These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation.”
Wasteful or not, any Congressperson can start such an inquiry, even for specious reasons. This is not equivalent to a legal “investigation” of an organization. What Stearns is doing is completely unfounded and politically motivated, but when you have power you can abuse it.
What does Stearns have to do with Komen? Anti-choice groups have long targeted Komen for its partnership with Planned Parenthood, in part by haranguing the organization and listing them as targets of various protests and boycotts, and in part by touting the medically-disproven and specious claims about non-existent links between abortion and breast cancer. A group known as Life Decisions International (LDI), the website of which is “fightpp.org,” has long had Komen on its boycott list.
These efforts hardly appear to have affected Komen’s bottom line since the foundation’s total gross revenue in 2010 was nearly $421 million, only several hundred thousand dollars of which were granted over the past five years by Komen’s state affiliates to local Planned Parenthood partners for education, screening, and referrals. Moreover, as a large and well-known organization (albeit one criticized for its work on many levels) Komen appeared until now to stay above the ideological mud-pit of the anti-choice movement.
Last fall, however, things began to change. LDI began quiety telling other anti-choice groups that it had “won” the battle with Komen and that they should await public announcement of a policy change.
And suddenly, Cliff Stearns’ inquiry became a reason for the Komen national office to change what state affiliates could do with their funds. Komen’s board recently approved a new policy stating that affiliates can only provide grant funds to other organizations if:
• The applicant is not currently debarred from the receipt of federal or state funding.
• No key personnel of applicant or any of its affiliates has been convicted of fraud or a crime involving any other financial or administrative impropriety within the last year.
• The applicant or any of its affiliates is not currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud. (“Affiliate” means any entities that control, are controlled by, or are under the same control as applicant or independent entities operating under the same name or brand as applicant.)
While the policy ostensibly affects “any” organization to which Komen affiliates might grant money, the memo sent to state affiliates specifically targets Planned Parenthood.
“Currently, however, various authorities at both the state and federal levels are conducting investigations involving [Planned Parenthood] and some of its local chapters, and the organization is barred from receiving government funding in numerous states. Under these new criteria, Planned Parenthood will be ineligible to receive new funding from Komen until these investigations are complete and these issues are resolved.”
But these are lies and innuendo: There are no “authorities” investigating Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood is not barred from receiving federal government funding in any state. No mature organization concerned about the health and well-being of women at risk of breast cancer would have created a policy targeting another respected organization with a record of saving untold lives.
But Komen can no longer claim the mantle of a respected organization. First, Komen last year hired Karen Handel, a former Georgia anti-choice gubernatorial candidate and Sarah Palin acolyte who promised as part of her platform to defund Planned Parenthood and other vital health services. Handel, who lost her race but is said to have future political ambitions, is now Senior Vice President for Policy at Komen. She was originally endorsed in her race by and received money from current GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, with whom some sources suggest she remains closely allied. Romney, in turn, has suddenly become more anti-choice than thou and has promised a federal person-hood amendment as well as to defund Planned Parenthood.
Second, sitting on Komen’s Advocacy Alliance Board is Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the virulently anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List and of its Political Action Committee. Among other involvements, Abraham helps direct the Nurturing Network, a global network of crisis pregnancy centers, organizations widely known for spreading ideology, misinformation and lies to women facing unintended pregnancy and to use both intimidation and coercion in the course of doing so. Also on the board of Nurturing Network is Maureen Scalia, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, no hero to women’s rights and health.
That Komen–an organization ostensibly dedicated to scientific exploration of cures for breast cancer–has invited on its advocacy board women so closely allied with organizations that so blatantly ignore science and medicine and spread outright lies to other women about their health and welfare speaks volumes about Komen’s ethical principles as an organization.
While anti-choicers including those on Komen’s board are spreading lies, Komen’s steps will ensure that more women who might have been screened will now lack access to early detection and treatment and may die from breast cancer. This is in keeping with a general and patently insane approach of the anti-choice movement: Decry abortion, for example, but limit funding for contraceptive education and supplies which can prevent the unintended pregnancies that lead to abortion. Decry the plight of minority women, but make their access to care increasingly limited. Cry for the “babies,” but defund pre- and post-natal care, nutritional support, and other forms of life and health care for infants and mothers. It is a venal and disgusting strategy that until now I would have thought well beneath the Komen Foundation no matter other issues.
But Komen as an organization now appears so little able to stand the truth that it is deleting comments from its website protesting the policy change. And this is not the first time Komen has come under fire for misinformation or questionable affiliations. Some point to concerns about Komen’s influence on a recent Institute of Medicine report playing down environmental factors in breast cancer, and its close affiliation with many companies that manufacture products using cancer-causing agents.
Given these and other links, it may be no surprise that Komen’s own memo to its affiliates spreads lies about Planned Parenthood, nor that Komen’s actions belie its own claims to care about racial, ethnic and income disparities in access to breast cancer screenings.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control on disparities in access to care noted that women without insurance (38.2 percent) and women without a usual source of health care (36.2 percent) were least likely to be screened for cancer and that such disparities remained stark among Latina, African-American, and Native American women.
In response, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Komen, said: “This gap in care for uninsured and low-income women is particularly troubling and one we have been working very hard to fill at Susan G. Komen. It’s clear that we have far more work to do for women who have no resources, no insurance, and no steady source of healthcare. They need our help the most.”
Jodi L. Jacobson is a long-time leader in the health and development community and an advocate with extensive experience in public health, gender equity, human rights, environment and demographic issues. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of RH Reality Check.
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.”
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.
STATEMENT OF PROFESSOR DANIEL C. MAGUIRE AT THE MEMORIAL FOR DR. GEORGE TILLER, MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN, JUNE 7, 2009 June 14, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Religion, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion rights, ama, anger, anti-choice, daniel maguire, fbi, george tiller, injustice, justice, misogny, planned parenthood, pro choice, religion, roe v. wade, roger hollander, scott roeder, st.antoninus, thomas aquinas, women's rights
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I had the privilege of knowing George Tiller. It was a pleasure at the time, but it gives me pain now to remember the evening and dinner my wife Edie McFadden and I spent with George and his wife Jeanne in New York two years ago.
I would use these words to describe George: gentle, soft-spoken, courageous, committed. He also had a quiet anger at American terrorists and outlaws who would not leave him in peace to practice medicine according to American law.
Thomas Aquinas spoke of “the virtue of anger.” He saw the prophets of Israel and saw that they were bursting with anger. He saw Jesus angrily attacking the temple of injustice, overturning tables and Thomas concluded that if these moral heroes were angry, then there is a virtue of anger. It is a virtue, I would say, that most of us lack. Thomas cited this quote from St. John Chrysostom: “Whoever is not angry when there is cause for anger, sins.” Remember that quote. It should be in every church and court house.
Good anger is a virtue, said Thomas, because good anger respicit bonum justitiae, it looks to the good of justice, and those who are not angry in the face of injustice love justice too little.
The history of abortion rights in America is cause for anger. In 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court gave women the legal and constitutional right to abortion in problem pregnancies.
Such a legal and constitutionally grounded right, is like the right to vote the right to go to church or synagogue the right to go to school. And to do all of that without being harassed, threatened, or murdered. That’s what rights are.
Starting in 1976, some—-not all—-anti-choice activists became outlaws. Since they could not change the law non-violently, they turned to violence and began a campaign of terror, egged on by right wing talk show hosts. They began by the bombing of clinics, arson, anthrax threats, and hostile violent picketing and physical and verbal assaults at clinics.
When this was not enough, starting in the 1990’s, they turned to murder and assassination.
The results so far in this domestic war of terror: seven doctors and clinic workers murdered………..one doctor murdered in his church, another in his kitchen. The suspect Scott Roeder said from jail that more such events are planned.
Sad to tell, this domestic war of terror has had an evil success. In 85% of the counties of this nation, there is no abortion provider. And we have let it happen.
This evening, as we gather in memorial, a single man, Scott Roeder, is held in prison in Kansas for this murder. The guilt, however, extends far beyond him.
The guilt extends to all of us here tonight who have not been angry enough to practice effective non-violent resistance to this very successful and malicious war of terror. In the memory of George Tiller I issue to all of us tonight a fervent Call to Effective Political and Non-violent Action.
Let me list those who, with us, share in the guilt of this murder:
First, I cite the police and FBI nationwide who have been lax. Reports went to the police and FBI during the week and the day before the killing about Roeder breaking the law and violating clinics. Absolutely nothing was done. In my opinion this screams out sexism. Abortion related violence is a WOMAN THING and it simply is not taken as seriously as if it were a MAN THING. In my view, if men got pregnant, clinics would be protected like an army fortress and police would make sure that no one would threaten or harass men as they went there to exercise their legal rights as citizens. There would be none of the current nonchalance.
On an almost daily basis, pickets outside Planned Parenthood offices and abortion clinics cross the line between protected free speech and violence. Violence is defined as harm done or threatened. Pickets here in Milwaukee practice violence by threat, shouting at clinic workers: “We know where you live!” or, with the same effect: “We know you Mary,” a tactic used by organized crime to intimidate. They scream insults at patients entering the clinic—in most clinics most clients are not there for abortions but to get the health care that Planned Parenthood provides for the poor—-and the pickets rejoice when they see these women reduced to tears. What they are doing is shouting “Fire! in a crowded theater,” to use Justice Holmes famous analogy. That is violence. Where are the police?
Conclusion: Every day that pickets gather outside these offices a police person should be there to arrest anyone who turns free speech into violent and assaultive threats. We must insist on this.
Secondly on the guilt list is the medical profession: The AMA and the Medical Society of Wisconsin and other state medical societies have sinned by their lack of outrage and effective leadership as their fellow professionals were murdered, tortured and harassed. Let them also hear this call to action.
Also guilty are the religious leaders. All the world religions, including Roman Catholicism, have a strong pro choice position existing alongside the no choice position. Both positions have the weight of religious authority and Roe v Wade respects that religious freedom of choice. It recognizes that the right to abortion is a religiously grounded civil and human right. Yet religious leaders, almost all men, fan the lethal fury of fanatical terrorists. Their pious hands are not clean when these people act out violently. Most of these religious leaders do not even know the openness to abortion choices in their religious traditions, and should be sent back to school. At the least they should say a prayer to St. Antoninus, canonized a saint in 1523, who supported abortion when a woman’s health was endangered, a common condition in his day. He was thus approving of a great number of abortions.
President Obama at Notre Dame called for “common ground” with anti-choice people. He was wrong. There is already common ground. It is called Roe v. Wade. That is the common ground for the law of this land and the anti-choice people are using pressure, threats and violence to prevent women citizens from acting within that law.
This is what angered George Tiller. This is what killed George Tiller.
This gathering this evening does Dr. Tiller no honor if we only shed tears and issue lamentations, but do not adopt the spirit of the African American civil rights movement. Let their cry be ours. “We’re all fed up. Aint going to take it no more……no more……no more!!!”
Dr. Tiller’s Murder: Fascist Terrorism June 2, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Health, Right Wing, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion services, answer coalition, anthrax, anti-women terrorists, back-alley abortion, bill o'reilly, fascist terrorism, fbi agents, fbi infiltration, george tiller, mara verheyden-hilliard, misogyny, naral, operation rescue, planned parenthood, religious bigotry, reproductive health, reproductive health clinics, right wing, right wing bigotry, roger hollander, tyler froatz, women's health
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By Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
Attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice
Statement on behalf of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
George Tiller after being shot
The rampant terrorism and violence against women and health care professionals who dare to provide women’s health services took its latest victim when Dr. George Tiller was brutally gunned down in his church on Sunday in Wichita, Kansas.
The government and the corporate media coddle these anti-women terrorists.
In the last 30 years, right-wing bigots have carried out 5,800 reported acts of violence against women’s health care providers, including targeted assassination, bombings, arsons, death threats, kidnappings and assaults, according to NARAL.
Hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of women have been assaulted and harassed by the right wing as they tried to see a doctor.
The Fascist Strategy
By targeting and intimidating health care providers, the fascist movement hopes to effectively ban abortion services in the United States. If they were to succeed, not only would it deprive women of their fundamental right to control their own bodies, it would be a health care catastrophe. One out of three women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45, according to Planned Parenthood.
The only question is whether women will be maimed or left to die because they cannot access quality health providers. Dr. Tiller took over his medical practice from his father, a doctor who began performing abortions himself in the 1940s after a patient whom he refused to help died in a back-alley abortion.
Dr. Tiller, like many other health care heroes, kept providing abortion services to women despite the threats. He had been shot previously in both arms; had his office bombed, shot at and frequently vandalized; and he and his patients were routinely threatened, intimidated and attacked.
Dr. Tiller kept providing health care services because, as his family said in a statement, he was “a dedicated servant on behalf of the rights of women everywhere.” He was past retirement age, with four children and 10 grandchildren, and he lived under a virtual military siege because of the terrorist threats. But he didn’t stop.
It Wasn’t Just the Gunman
This assassination is the culmination of a coordinated assault by the right wing. This included the Kansas Attorney General’s efforts to prosecute Tiller, the demonization of Dr. Tiller by Bill O’Reilly, who ran dozens of hit pieces targeting him as a “murderer,” and by “Operation Rescue,” which prominently called him “America’s Doctor of Death.”
In the aftermath of the murder, amid reports that the killer had worked with them, Operation Rescue scrambled to take down their prominent “Tiller Watch” webpage, apparently sanitizing it, while their founder continued to call Dr. Tiller a “mass murderer” and held a press conference to do so.
The New York Times coverage of the murder was pathetic. On its front page it stated, “Officials offered little insight into the motive, saying that they believed it was ‘the act of an isolated individual’ but that they were also looking into ‘his history, his family, his associates.'”
The decision to question or suggest uncertainty as to the killer’s “motive” reflects an effort to depoliticize and isolate this most violent of political acts and to disconnect the killing from right-wing groups who seek as their goal to deprive women of their rights using assassination as they see fit. Some right-wing groups and leaders have been quick to announce that the killing was not a homicide, but a justifiable act of “salvation.”
The mass media has leapt to the defense of many anti-woman, right-wing groups who directly targeted Dr. Tiller by giving their spokespeople more time in the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death to express their primary grievance with his murder — that it might make them look bad.
Fake Terrorism and Real Terrorism
In recent months, Dr. Tiller reported to the FBI that the threats were increasing.
Obviously, stopping real terrorism is not a “priority” for the FBI, which has allocated limitless resources to infiltrate and sabotage lawful political organizing all over the country. The FBI and police have disrupted and spied on progressive organizations that built a powerful anti-war movement in the last years. They have paid agents provocateur to infiltrate and frame up organizations and individuals engaged in dissent.
Nor is any mosque or Muslim community center safe from FBI infiltration and disruption activities. From Southern California to upstate New York, undercover FBI agents are trying to entrap Muslim youth into “terrorist” plots that emanate from the FBI itself.
The U.S. government’s use of the terrorist label is used to frame up and imprison Muslims in the United States. Just last week in Dallas, representatives of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) were sentenced to as much as 65 years in prison for the “terrorist” crime of raising money for desperately needed humanitarian relief. HLF had been the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. The charity’s “crime” was that the humanitarian relief was going to those starving and dying in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. The U.S. government has determined that it is an act of terrorism to get medicine to hospitals and food to children when U.S. foreign policy supports the strangulation of a civilian population for geostrategic reasons.
When Anthrax Threats Were No Big Deal
Yet, when it comes to the right-wing organizations that engage in violence and threats, the FBI and the corporate media are conspicuously mute.
For instance, shortly after the September 11 attacks, letters containing anthrax were sent to media and Senate offices. Hundreds of anthrax threats were also sent to reproductive health clinics, according to the website of NARAL, which states: “Between October 15 and 23, 2001, more than 250 abortion and family planning clinics in 17 states and the District of Columbia received letters purporting to contain anthrax. In each instance, a powdery substance was accompanied by a letter stating, ‘You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you.’ An additional 270 letters were sent to clinics during the first week of November.”
Very few people know about this kind of extreme terrorist intimidation. Can you imagine the reaction of the FBI and the media if anti-war organizers or Arab Americans were linked to anthrax threat letters? There would be screaming headlines and nationwide police sweeps.
Coddling Right Wing Terrorists
But in 2007, in Washington, D.C., when a man showed up at an immigrant rights rally, covertly carrying a map of the demonstration area with sight lines drawn on it, with a cache of weapons including a converted fully automatic M1-Carbine and apparent plans to massacre participants, you probably never heard about it. Why? Because the man, Tyler Froatz, was a right-wing vigilante bent on attacking immigrants and their supporters.
Froatz, who organized with the Free Republic and acted as a spokesman for the Minuteman, stalked a May Day demonstration in 2007. He was arrested after he was confronted by a courageous young woman working as an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition. She was then assaulted by him when she objected to the racist signs he was posting depicting the graphic slaughter of immigrants, including pregnant women and children.
In addition to the weapons Froatz brought with him, in his apartment was found a large arsenal of rifles, handguns, ammunition, a Molotov cocktail, a hand grenade and a 100,000-volt taser gun.
So is Froatz in the special terrorist prisons in Terre Haute or Marion? No. He was released to the custody of his parents in Connecticut and thereafter allowed to plead to a minor weapons charge. The U.S. Attorney’s Office never charged him with any terrorism-related offense or hate-crimes offense. And today, members of Froatz’s group, the Free Republic, celebrated this latest cold-blooded terrorist murder of Dr. Tiller in their postings.
More than Bullet-Proof Vests and Federal Marshals: A New Strategy is Needed
The murder of Dr. Tiller is a misogynist attack against all women. It is also the foreseeable outcome of a climate of bigotry and vilification fostered by the right wing, normalized by the media and the U.S. government.
A political calculus has been made by the government as to what will be deemed terrorism: what political acts will be crushed and what political violence will be supported or tolerated. As it stands, there is no mobilized effective counter to this fascist violence and the threat that it poses. It’s time for a new strategy and a new challenge. There must be a multi-faceted mobilization of women themselves and of all those men who stand with us against anti-woman bigotry.
The Morning After Pill Conspiracy March 24, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
Tags: anti-contraception, bush administration, bush political criminal, contraception, cristina page, emergency contraception, fda, ignorance only sex education, morning after pill, plan b, planned parenthood, pregnancy prevention, public health, roger hollander, sex education, teen motherhood, Teen Pregnancy, Unwanted Pregnancy, virgity pledges, women's health, women's rights
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Published on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 by Huffington Post
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.
A Plan for Women’s Rights for a New Bolivia March 17, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: abortion access, Bolivia, bolivian catholics, catholic church, catholics for choice, contraception, gladys melo-pinzon, healthcare, Latin America, maternal health, maternal mortality, planned parenthood, reproductive health, roger hollander, safe abortion, sexuality education, teresa lanza, women's health, women's rights
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As countries around the world celebrated International Women’s Day last week, the Bolivian government launched an equal rights and opportunities plan dubbed “Mujeres construyendo la Nueva Bolivia para vivir bien,” which can be loosely translated as “women are building a new Bolivia with better lives for all.” Not simply a development strategy, this plan exemplifies a significant, shared vision: namely the importance of recognizing women’s contributions to the ongoing development of the country.
The plan is the culmination of a lengthy process of compromise between the Bolivian government and women’s NGOs from all parts of Bolivia, including Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir in Bolivia, a partner organization of Catholics for Choice. All parties met with the common goal of creating a long term strategy aimed at tackling the problems that continue to plague Bolivia, especially those related to women.
Certainly one such problem is the prohibition of abortion. Currently, the Bolivian Penal Code permits the right to abortion in cases of rape, incest and when a woman’s life or health is in danger. However, the law states that a judicial authorization must be obtained before a woman is allowed to have an abortion. As a result of long delays in the authorization process, women have been unable to access safe and legal abortions. Statistics speak of the “death of a life-giving body” – a euphemism describing the many women who die from pregnancy complications, birth and unsafe abortion each day. Until this statistical measure becomes obsolete, change will not have occurred.
As in many other countries with similarly strong Catholic roots, the hierarchy of the Catholic church plays a leading role in seeking to block advancements in women’s rights, especially those pertaining to sexual and reproductive health. That notwithstanding, a 2003 survey conducted by Catholics for Choice and Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir in Bolivia shows that a majority of Bolivians support access to reproductive health services. The numbers speak for themselves: 66 percent of Bolivian Catholics support access to abortion services and 81 percent believe that one can use contraception and still be a good Catholic.
This initiative is a political gain but the plan will not propel change on its own. Change will emerge only when people claim greater responsibility and recognize what this process means for Bolivia. As evidenced by the numbers, Bolivian Catholics are ready for such change even if the church hierarchy is not. This is a crucial moment: an opportunity for Bolivia to establish new dialogues and emerge as a country in which women’s rights are honored and respected.
Delegates from Bolivia will travel to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, meeting at the end of March in New York City, where they plan to share their strategy. Catholics for Choice will also be present at that meeting, providing a useful counter to the church hierarchy’s dismissal of reproductive rights. Consistent commitment to women’s rights on a global scale will enable us to honor women all year round – not just on one single day or at one event.