Republicans Won on Women’s Health and Need to be Held Accountable

As we take a breath in the wake of these 2014 elections, there were some glimmers of hope as we saw a turnout (albeit modest) of voters who “support women’s reproductive health, want to support candidates who do as well, and will vote on the issue”, says Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

The cloud that is the Republican-held Senate may have a silver lining in supposed increases in reproductive healthcare access, but Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America warns of Republicans politicking their way into power. “What we saw this year was many anti-choice Republicans realizing this and running away from—and in many cases, flat out lying about—their own record when it came to both choice and access to birth control. Voters are not stupid. All candidates moving forward should heed these lessons, and the American people deserve representation from both parties who genuinely reflect the desire of voters to protect reproductive rights”. So let’s look at those Republican Senators who used pro-choice and reproductive health messaging during their election campaigns, and we need to make sure they stick to their word.

1. Cory Gardner (Colorado)
He championed for personhood, even going so far as circulating the petition at his church. He also co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, but NOW he has come out in support for contraception and backtracked on his support on personhood.

2. Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
He supported state efforts that blocked Planned Parenthood from receiving funding from the state for its screenings and other health services. But NOW he has joined the OTC Republican bandwagon and claims: “First, I believe contraception should be available — and probably more broadly than it is today. I think over-the-counter oral contraception should be available without a prescription. If you do those kinds of things, you will actually increase the access and reduce the barriers for having more options for women for contraception.”

3. Joni Ernst (Iowa)
She co-sponsored a so-called “personhood” amendment, she sponsored two amendments to prohibit state funding for abortion, and she voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

But NOW, Ernst said in a debate: “I always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception.”

What’s the catch?

Well, they could have genuinely changed their beliefs and devoted to staunch support of women’s right to affordable and accessible reproductive health care. Or there is this other policy-related alternative, which may make more sense.

“Under the healthcare law, contraceptives are to be available without co-pay. If the medication becomes available over the counter, most will not be covered by health insurance, meaning that drugs that have become more affordable would suddenly be less so”, says the LA Times.

The Washington Post also picked up on this sly irregularity: “Let’s be clear that making birth control pills available over the counter would be a good thing — but only if insurance continued to pay for it. The cost of the pill can be as much as $600 a year, which is out of reach for many women. And we know that insurance companies seldom reimburse customers for OTC medications. The price of the medication might come down over time if it was sold over the counter, but in the meantime millions of women are dependent on their insurance plans to be able to afford it.”

OK, so as long as insurance companies continue to pay for it, then we’re all good. Republicans haven’t had any opposition to healthcare reforms mandating universal insurance coverage. Oh wait.

“By opposing the ACA, all these GOP candidates are putting themselves on record in opposition to requiring insurance companies to pay for any birth control in policies women themselves have bought. And that’s not to mention other forms of contraception, like IUDs, that require a doctor’s care and come with a significant up-front cost.”

This has definitely contributed to why “Pro-Choice Groups Declare a Sort of 2014 Victory”. Yes, there have been some movement towards the promotion of women’s health, but the leaders who purported to ensure this happening need to be held accountable to their words if we have any chance of achieving reproductive health rights for women and the freedom for women to have control over their own bodies.

Friday Femorandum: Proud Seattleites for lifting bans on abortion coverage

Welcome to the Friday Femorandum, our weekly roundup of reproductive rights news.

Here’s what happened in reproductive politics this week:

On Wednesday, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s proposed resolution calling on federal lawmakers to repeal all federal bans on public coverage of abortion made it out of committee and is on its way to a full council vote! Here’s a social media graphic you can share widely to show your support:


The rule “is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion,” he wrote.

Let’s see that again.

The rule “is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion,” he wrote.

Mount Holyoke College is joining a growing chorus of women’s colleges that have expanded their admissions policies to include transwomen.“Her real distinction is being one of the earliest female comedians to be relentlessly filthy, and also to talk in an unfiltered way about being a woman. Nearly 30 years before Sarah Silverman, her career almost ended when she told an abortion joke on the air”:  Joan Rivers.

Minnesota is banning shackling and providing doulas for incarcerated women giving birth.

After Tiller, the courageous documentary focusing on the four remaining physicians in the US who openly perform later abortions, is available on PBS.A much needed reality check on what some are calling a “scandal” for Jennifer Lawrence – but is actually a crime.

So many people have taken the taco and/or beer challenge, including Dan SavageSarah Paulson, and Martha Plimpton.


Go jump on that bandwagon.Pronounced guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and extortion: Former Virginia Governor Bob “Mandatory Ultrasounds” McDonnell.

We had some good news this week. To celebrate, here are some puppies:

Thank you for being pro-choice. You restore our faith in humanity every day.

Subscribe to the Friday Femorandum.

Period Stigma: More Than Just An Annoyance

By Crysteaux Sun, Social Media Intern

Frankly, a woman openly displaying a period product shouldn’t just feel comfortable; she should be celebrated! She is doing a public service to all subway benches, restaurant seats, and bedsheets. Every month, women face down the elevator doors in The Shining with just a tiny cylinder on a string to help us. We don’t cry or scream; we just sigh, complain about bloating, and buy chocolate. That is so punk! PERIODS ARE PUNK! TAMPONS ARE PUNK!

Colette McIntyre at Refinery29

Pregnancy happens all the time, and our culture is obsessed with it – just look at any “bump watch” or “baby joy” headline in People or InTouch. But periods happen even more often, and women aren’t getting trophies for those, despite the fact that periods are, well, pretty punk rock when you think about it. Because unless some miracle drug comes out that eliminates both blood and pain, for a lot of women I know, periods require punk rock strength to get through.

And period stigma isn’t helping. But in developing countries, it doesn’t just make periods hard to talk about – it can have devastating consequences in the lives of women and girls.

In India and Kenya, for example, without easy access to affordable period care options, period stigma and poverty prevent some girls from attending school when they have their periods. Given that the education of women and girls is one potential solution to global poverty, this is no small thing.  “[Missing school] puts female students at a distinct disadvantage as they enter secondary school and severely decreases her odds of continuing on to post-secondary school,” reports  at the Huffington Post.

Simply put, treating something as fundamental to women’s health as menstruation with secrecy and shame has hugely negative implications for larger issues like education and building strong communities.

Luckily, access to period care essentials can be improved through funding and grassroots efforts.

Here’s a selection of ways to help. List adapted from Zimbabwean HuffPo contributor Miriam Mufaro:

  • Huru International of NYC: donate $ or individual kits.
  • Femme International of Toronto: send a kit containing a menstrual cup, fund 3-5 women to help them complete a Feminine Health Management Programme
  • Zana Africa of Nairobi: provide general donations to East-African girls, for pads to be made in the locale, join the donation circle
  • SoftCup of San Diego: Go online or to a store and contribute by buying a Softcup for yourself.
  • Lwala Community Alliance of Lwala, Kenya: Fund public health initiatives that directly impact this village.

It is also important to stay informed about the status of period stigma for menstruating women around the world, and to feel free to talk about periods. They aren’t dirty or shameful – the reality is that for half the population, they’re a frequent occurrence. They’re happening all the time. And when menstruation stigma is lessened, it means better news down the road for reproductive health.

Crysteaux Sun is a Social Media Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.

Friday Femorandum: Fixing Hobby Lobby, calling out misogyny, & even more tacos/beer

Welcome to the Friday Femorandum, our weekly roundup of reproductive rights news.

Here’s what happened in reproductive politics this week:

The Obama Administration has issued a fix to ensure that women employed at terrible companies like Hobby Lobby maintain access to birth control in the wake of the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell ruling. The “accommodation to the accommodation” allows employers to write a letter to the Department of Health & Human Services instead of filling out an exemption form, an action that some of the objecting companies seem to sincerely believe causes an abortion.

“Abortion is illegal in Nigeria but Nigerian women are faced with the problem of unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion and the complications of unsafe abortion.” So the Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC) is training Nigerian pharmacists on abortion management.

The California State Legislature just passed a landmark law overhauling requirements for investigation into sexual assault cases on college campuses.

Confidential to misogynist internet trolls viciously targeting Anita Sarkeesian, the creator ofFeminist Frequency and caller-out of sexist tropes in video games: hurling misogynist vitriol at someone for calling out sexism as a way to show that sexism isn’t real has never worked.

Speaking of calling out sexism, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has gone public about sexism in Congress. In case you aren’t interested in reading the Washington Post‘s coverage of it, here’s the picture that ran with it:

That’s right. It’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz supporting Gabby Giffords as she throws out the first pitch at the Congressional Softball Game. THERE’S SOMETHING IN MY EYE

On trans-inclusive language and reproductive rights advocacy.

How one Arizona candidate responded to a request from National Right to Life: “He pointed out that he does support some policies proven to lower the number of unintended pregnancies, and mailed back condoms emblazoned with the phrase ‘prevent abortion.'”

You do you, Mr. Woods of Arizona.

“To ingest the mifepristone and misoprostol they are told to place the drugs in their cheek or under their tongue, where the medicine cannot be detected in the body. Treatment, if needed, is the same as it would be for a spontaneous miscarriage. “Women shouldn’t be afraid to look for care when they need it, and at the same time they shouldn’t do anything to incriminate themselves,” Gomperts said.” This is from the NY Times‘s must-read feature on Women on Waves founder Rebecca Gomperts, a game-changing physician who has provided legal abortions on a boat in international waters for women in countries where abortion is illegal or inaccessible and now provides medication abortion over the Internet. Go read all of it.

A friendly reminder that the taco and/or beer challenge to fund abortion is still going strong. Eat a delicious taco or drink a delicious beer – or both! – and donate to an abortion fund of your choice.

Thank you for being pro-choice. You restore our faith in humanity every day.

Subscribe to the Friday Femorandum.

Care About Economic Justice? End Coverage Bans on Abortion

By Jaimie Just, Reproductive Freedom Fellow

Let’s not kid ourselves about the true intention of anti-choice politicians: to ban all abortions. The fact that abortion is legal in the United States does not mean that it is affordable. Often, there is disconnect between a woman’s choice and what is economically feasible.

Racial equality and economic justice are intimately linked with reproductive health equity. Significant economic barriers deny women, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet, their constitutional right to choose abortion. Public funding, such as Medicaid, is used as a proxy for overturning Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in his dissenting opinion in Harris v. McRae that “the Hyde Amendment is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.”

The Hyde Amendment goes against the core American values of liberty and fair and equal treatment under the law by banning federal insurance or health plans, including Medicaid, from covering abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman. Politicians must not be allowed to interfere with personal health care decisions. All women need access to broad range of reproductive health services, including contraceptives, maternity care, and – yes – abortions. This is common sense.

While there are differing opinions regarding abortion, it is not my place, or the government’s, to decide for someone else whether or not she should get an abortion. It is better that she makes that personal decision with her family and her faith.

Studies have shown that abortion coverage restrictions disproportionately affect certain segments of our society. Often, those who are already underrepresented – such as women of color and women living in poverty – see their right to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortions, curtailed. This is not fair and equal treatment under the law!

Considering the fact that 69% of women who get abortions are economically disadvantaged and nearly 1 in 7 women of reproductive age (15-44) is insured through the Medicaid program, many women are left to pay for abortions out-of-pocket. The high costs of the procedure put some women in the difficult position of choosing between having an abortion or paying the rent and putting food on the table for their families. When Medicaid restrictions on abortion force one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, how can we say that they have a choice?

In Washington State, the cost of an abortion can range from $500 up to $10,000 depending how advanced the pregnancy is. Luckily, Washington is one of 15 states that provide funding to bridge the gap left by Hyde restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion. What about the women who live in the other 35 states?

The Hyde Amendment can and should be repealed in order to guarantee reproductive justice for all women. Repealing the Hyde Amendment would reinforce women’s moral agency in making healthcare decisions. When people can plan if and when to have children, it is good for them and for society as a whole.

To reiterate, we mustn’t be fooled into believing that those who would outlaw abortion are simply trying to protect women’s health and lower abortion rates. Anti-choice positions regarding sex education, contraceptives, as well as the recent Hobby Lobby decision from the Supreme Court show a remarkable lack of coherence and do a poor job concealing efforts to control the lives of women through legislation.

Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) said it himself in 1977, “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody from having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.” So, unable to control the sexuality of all women in our society, women’s health opponents settle for controlling the most vulnerable because, you know, their rights are somehow less important than those of their wealthier counterparts.

A movement is brewing around the country, sights set firmly on Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion coverage. The group All Above All is traveling cross-country to various cities gathering signatures for a petition that would extend federal funding to include abortion. Local city councils are taking part as well, proposing resolutions supporting insurance coverage of abortion. Reproductive health equity is a necessary step in the fight for racial equality and economic justice, so let’s #EndCoverageBans now!

Jaimie Just is a Reproductive Freedom Fellow at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.