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Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

Latina Week of Action for RJ logoWhat if the worldwide controversy over abortion could be solved with a small, $1 pill?  That is the question Nicholas Kristof asks in his column, which describes a pill that induces abortions.  He notes two potential benefits of the bill, the first being its easy access for women who may not be able to pay for abortion procedures, even risky ones:

Five-sixths of abortions take place in developing countries, where poor sterilization and training often make the procedure dangerous. Up to 70,000 women die a year from complications of abortions, according to the World Health Organization.

The safe and inexpensive pill could revolutionize women’s health in developing countries and prevent thousands of death at the hands of draconian anti-choice laws due to the second benefit Kristof notes:  misoprostol, a medication initially created to prevent stomach ulcers, is quite difficult for governments to restrict.

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By Rita Martinez, Development and Communications Intern

Doctor in white coat holding stethoscopeMany in the reproductive rights movement are acutely aware of the divide that exists between abortion providers and mainstream medicine. While the government recognizes a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, our policies and medical realities don’t show it very well. Not only does the country place a huge barrier to low-income access through the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of public funds for abortions, we also isolate abortion providers, forcing women to seek out stand-alone clinics in order to receive the care they need.

Following the passing of Roe vs Wade, which affirmed a woman’s right to choose, it was predicted that if only half the country’s obstetricians provided abortion care services, clinics would be unnecessary.

Emily Bazelon’s article in the NY Times Magazine best recounts the stifling environment that ensued:

After Roe, the shadow of the greedy, butchering “abortionist” continued to hover, and many doctors didn’t want to stand in it. As mainstream medicine backed away, feminist activists stepped in.

Initially a huge success for women’s rights, these stand-alone clinics soon became poised to further the divide between abortion providers and hospitals. In an attempt to secure abortion providers within mainstream medicine, they had now provided conservatives an opportunity to ultimately remove abortion care from the public’s view.

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Coordinators of the anti-choice billboard campaign in Atlanta have arranged a “Freedom Bus for the Unborn” that began on July 23rd in Birmingham, Alabama.  Funded by Priests for Life of New York, this anti-choice operation exploits the historical site across from the 16th Street Baptist Church where the Ku Klux Klan killed four girls in a bombing in 1963.  Alveda King, the niece of Dr. King and an employee of Priests for Life, will head the anti-abortion campaign in an attempt to lend credence to the “black children are an endangered species” mantra.

These freedom rides warp historical facts to suggest that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King opposed reproductive freedoms.  Much like other anti-choice organizations, the coordinators behind the freedom rides co-opt the language of civil rights, a movement based on expanding the right to make choices about one’s own life, to impinge on the decision-making abilities of black women.  To speak out against these misrepresentations of facts and pro-choice ideologies, three groups – SisterSong, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, and SisterLove, Inc. – organized a counter-protest at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta last Saturday.  Be on the lookout for more counter-protests, or organize one with fellow reproductive justice activists, to combat these freedom rides and put forth a vision of civil rights which empowers, rather than stigmatizes, women of color and seeks to advance, rather than roll back, our freedoms.

By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

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Stop the rollback of women’s rights in health care reform

Last week, sixty of you joined us for our cafecito to discuss contraception in health care reform. We told you that your voices would be crucial in this fight. Now is the time to take action.

Not only do we need to make sure that contraception is covered as preventative care, but now we also need to push for a lifting of the ban on abortion coverage for women with pre-existing conditions.

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama Administration decided to keep women at the margins of health care reform implementation by voluntarily imposing abortion coverage restrictions to women who need it the most, women in high-risk pools. The Administration was also silent on whether or not family planning will be included as a basic preventative care service. We cannot stand idly by as our access to reproductive health care services continue to be rolled back!

Please join us in taking action.

We have two crucial actions today:

1. Demand that contraception be covered as preventative care!

Click here to send a letter to your representatives urging them to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter that will be circulated by Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Lois Capps.

The letter asks them to support comprehensive family planning services that includes contraception as a key women’s health service under the Women’s Health Amendment.

2. Tell the White House: No abortion coverage restrictions for women with pre-existing conditions

Click here to send a letter to President Obama demanding that he lift the ban on abortion coverage for women with pre-existing conditions.

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By Lucy Panza, DC Policy Intern

In a recent interview, Nevada Republican candidate for Senate Sharron Angle made a rather inconvenient blunder.  She dug herself into a pretty deep hole with her explanation of why pregnant survivors of rape and incest should not be able to access abortion.  As the Huffington Post reports:

[Interviewer Alan Stock]: What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as [a previous interviewer] said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let’s say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I’ll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said ‘I know what you did thank you for saving my life.’ So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

Angle’s remarks are equally inflammatory and important.  They are important because, first, they demonstrate the candidate’s extreme views on abortion restrictions in a context where women and girls arguably need abortion care the most.  Second, these remarks are important for the lack of a Democratic response from incumbent Senator Harry Reid’s campaign.  Granted, Reid’s campaign website has a news page devoted to Angle’s radical opposition to women’s health.  But that does not lessen the significance of how Reid will respond this time around.  Despite Reid’s own conservative views on abortion rights, he and his advisers must come up with a statement that places him in stark contrast to Angle’s extremely insensitive and alarming position which, if she is elected, will jeopardize the health of women and girls.  This should not be a difficult or controversial task.

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By Sheila Reynoso, Research Intern

A recent report released by the Center for American Progress, Abortion Bills by the Numbers, written by Jessica Arons and Alex Cawthorne, caught my attention this week. It highlights the increase in state laws restricting access to abortion.

The health care reform bill and President Obama’s Executive Order are making it possible for states to “opt-out” of abortion coverage and pass laws that will prohibit insurance companies from providing abortion coverage in the exchange market.  Three states to this date have passed such laws, with 14 states following suit introducing laws that will either ban, limit, or a combination of both for abortions.

The report also mentions how states have passed laws that place all sorts of absurd restrictions on abortions, including (but not limited to) banning abortions based on the gender or race of the fetus; mandatory ultrasounds; and time frame limitations.  Finally, this article also comments on how much time and effort is spent lobbying for these abortion restrictions while other important legislation and programs are underfunded or cut altogether. Arons and Cawthorne highlight the irony in this:

While state legislators have been busy making abortion almost impossible to obtain for an untold number of women, they have done little to provide women with the support they need to carry their pregnancies to term, have childbirth options available to them, and raise the children they have. States are facing a budget shortfall of about $260 billion over the next two fiscal years, leading to unprecedented cuts to a variety of critical programs for vulnerable families and children, including public health programs and early childhood and K-12 education.

We need better public health programs that will provide education on contraceptive use, public health programs that will support a woman if she chooses to raise her child, and programs that will prevent unintended pregnancies.  I urge legislators to put themselves in a woman’s shoes and look at the reality of the position that these women are in, stop passing abortion laws that prohibit a woman’s right and instead move in a direction that will give women and families better reproductive health options.

By Sheila Reynoso, Research Intern

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By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

On June 1st, 2010, the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Law Students for Reproductive Justice co-hosted a series of panels and discussions called the 2010 Summer Intern Training on Reproductive Rights Law & Justice.  Around 20 students attended the event, which explored current trends in the reproductive justice movement from a legal perspective.  The first, and perhaps the most controversial, activity was called “Next Wave of Abortion Restrictions:  Banning Abortions Based on the Sex or Race of the Fetus.”  Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, explained that conservative legislators such as Congressman Trent Franks, R-Ariz., are pushing sex and race selection abortion bans in federal and state legislatures.

Given the controversial nature of these proposals, the presenters decided to have each participant stand along a line representing a continuum based on how strongly he or she agreed or disagreed with a particular statement.  It seemed that none of us could come to a consensus about any of the questions:  Does sex-selection abortion rely on or enforce gender stereotypes?  Is it natural to want to balance sex representation in a family?  Is choosing the sex or physical characteristics of a fetus any different from stating one’s preferences on an adoption form?  Many of us stood somewhere in the middle of the continuum, floundering between a simple “yes” or “no.”

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Last night, the House of Representatives voted 219-212 to pass health care reform.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health commends Congress and the Administration for continuing to push for much-needed health reform and we encourage the Senate to pass the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act that includes critical pieces affecting our community.

However, this battle was fought on the bodies of women and immigrants. In the eleventh hour, President Barack Obama caved to the demands of a handful of anti-choice Democrats by agreeing to use the lives of women as trade. He will use his pen to add weight to the already cumbersome abortion restrictions in the health care bill. Latinas, immigrants, and women of color are deeply affected by any language restricting abortion access – because women of color and immigrants are disproportionately poor, they are less likely to be able to pay for reproductive health care out-of-pocket, which puts them at risk for seeking alternative, unsafe abortion methods. While health reform might lead to more Latinas being covered, it leaves out a significant portion of the population. By excluding and stigmatizing immigrants and women who need abortions, we are pushing them to the shadows of our health care system and placing unfair burden on the already-strained system of community health care centers and emergency rooms. Over half of all immigrants are women, and 53% of all immigrants are from Latin America; though it has yet to be signed by the President, this bill is outdated already.

NLIRH has been working tirelessly over the past year to ensure that the health care reform process was one that included the needs of women and families in our communities.Our activists have been engaged in unprecedented numbers – evidence that the women in our communities know more than anyone else how deeply health care reform is needed. If passed by the Senate, reconciliation package will cover an estimated 9 million uninsured Latinos and increase funding for community health centers, which is a lifeline for many in our neighborhoods. In addition, 4.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico and territories will receive $6.3 billion in new Medicaid funding, increased flexibility in how to use federal funding, access to the Exchange and $1 billion in subsides for low-income residents. Finally, we also know that this bill will expand family planning under Medicaid, increasing access to preventative reproductive health care service.

However, that women were used as wedges in this process is absolutely unacceptable. Over and over, our needs were compromised away. The fact that health care reform has passed in the House represents a truly historic moment for the United States. That it is marred by the President’s inability to protect the rights of women is truly disappointing.

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