Choice News

Friday Femorandum: Borders Without Doctors

Get ready for a lightning round today, because SO MUCH happened this week! From the status of abortion care in the states to the sorry state of parental leave, here’s what you need to know about the week in reproductive rights that was.

Ohio became the latest state to defund Planned Parenthood this week, and the first to specifically target not family planning funds but supplemental health care funds that pay for STI and HIV testing as well as infant mortality reduction programs that supplement the state’s troubled health care system. To make up for the loss of these programs, the Guardian reports, lawmakers provided a list of alternatives they said would provide the same services–programs that included dentist’s offices, school nurses, and a food bank.

meryl streep frustrated annoyed facepalm august osage countyMeanwhile, in South Dakota, they keep passing laws that would place undue burdens on abortion seekers as well as abortion providers–if they had any. As the Minneapolis-based City Pages reports, the only doctors performing abortions in the single Planned Parenthood clinic left in South Dakota are Minnesotans–doctors who fly in to perform a common procedure that no doctor in the state is willing to do. “Think of it as Haiti after the earthquake. South Dakota has legislated itself into the Third World.”

One such doctor, Willie J. Parker, moved from his home in Chicago to provide abortions full-time in the South, another major battleground in the war against abortion access. Writing in the New York Times, he explains why he travels across state lines to places like Alabama to provide abortions. “The short answer is: Because I can. And: Because if I don’t, who will?”

In somewhat happier news, the only abortion clinic remaining in another Southern state, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Mississippi, will soon begin offering comprehensive family planning services, including contraception, at its iconic pink clinic. Currently, the Jackson Free Press reports, doctors have to send women out of the clinic to get contraception or STI testing after they receive abortions.

confused maroon 5 adam levine interested intriguedThe Guttmacher Institute has a useful piece laying out the difference between the political and policy arguments surrounding over-the-counter birth control. In a nutshell: Democrats generally support OTC birth-control pills, on the grounds that easier access will lower the rate of unintended pregnancy rates, as long as they’re covered under the Affordable Care Act, which mandates free access to birth control. Republicans say they support OTC birth control, but want to exempt it from the ACA, so that insurance companies would no longer have to pay for it as a benefit and women would be at the mercy of the free market to determine the price. Another interesting issue Guttmacher delves into is how safe OTC pills will be, given the likelihood of side effects among those taking hormonal birth control pills, and concerns that women will stop getting checkups and other health care when pills are available over the counter.

RH Reality Check
considers the burning question on everyone’s mind as we head into SCOTUS season: “Justice Kennedy can save Roe. But will he?” The case the court will consider this term involves a law in Texas that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and outfit their facilities to meet emergency-room standards. The aim of such onerous laws, known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider, or TRAP, laws, is to shut abortion clinics down, so the Supremes’ decision, which hinges on Kennedy as the swing vote, will determine whether states have the right to regulate abortion clinics out of existence. 

Bonus! If you’re curious why SCOTUS decided to consider the Texas law and not two other abortion-related cases originating in New Hampshire and Mississippi, RH Reality Check has you covered there as well.

Finally, a heartbreaking argument for more paid parental leave comes from the New York Times’ Parenting blog, where a mother describes having to put her baby in daycare before she was ready, and the tragedy that ensued after she did.


Choice News

Friday Femorandum: Your Rights, On Trial

The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up seven cases in which religiously affiliated employers are trying to deny women birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

christina aguilera boo dislike thumbs down

Although the ACA mandates contraceptive coverage without a copay for all women, it includes an exception that allows religious employers to refuse to provide birth control in their health plans, and require employees to obtain it separately from third-party administrators or their health care plan. That isn’t enough for the nonprofits that are suing to deny their female employees access to contraception, who want the Court to grant them a blanket exemption to the health-care law.

The outcome of the case could have a major impact on women’s access to birth-control coverage nationwide. The court will likely schedule oral arguments for 2016, with a ruling late in the coming term.scared shocked nervous snl scream

We’re still waiting to see if the Supremes will take up another case related to women’s health, this one about the TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws that threaten to shut down all but ten clinics in Texas and to shutter the only remaining abortion provider in Mississippi. The Guardian has a concise explanation of the case, which will determine, in short, whether the constitutionally protected right to access abortion will be real or merely theoretical.

The states argue that their laws, which require hospital admitting privileges and emergency-room-like medical equipment and facilities at women’s health clinics, don’t place an undue burden on women’s ability to exercise their constitutional right to choose; women’s rights advocates, including NARAL, argue that when women have to drive hundreds of miles and cross state lines to access the nearest clinic, they no longer have meaningful access to abortion services.

The Guardian explains:

Should the supreme court agree to hear either case, the consequences loom large. Eight states have passed highly similar abortion restrictions that are now mired in court battles. A ruling on the Texas or Mississippi law would in effect end those lawsuits, with implications for some 30 abortion providers.

Even more crucially, both cases ask the justices to clarify how far a state can go in passing laws that regulate abortion clinics before a measure becomes unconstitutional. Lower courts have been tussling with this question since 1992, when the supreme court ruled in Planned Parenthood v Casey. The decision gave states the right to restrict abortion in the interest of the woman’s health as long as the restriction is not an “undue burden”. But the high court has never clarified the phrase’s meaning.

Whole Woman’s Health is pushing the supreme court to recognize a law as an undue burden if it does not serve an actual health purpose. If the supreme court were to agree, it would force lower courts to scrutinize the evidence behind many new abortion restrictions. Reproductive rights groups and many mainstream medical organizations maintain that there is little medical evidence for the Texas or Mississippi laws and their many copycats. Indeed, courts that have examined the evidence for new restrictions have tended to rule against abortion foes.

 However, legal analysts anticipate a significant rightward shift on the court this year, after a year in which they affirmed the legality of same-sex marriage and upheld the ACA, as they rule on cases involving not just abortion but affirmative action, voting rights, and housing discrimination.
Slate, among many other outlets, reports that Canadian dreamboat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just chose a Cabinet that’s half women, NBD, because, he explained succinctly, “It’s 2015.” Naturally, Trudeau’s decision to promote and elevate qualified women to positions of power in his administration has its critics, mostly conservative concern trolls who grumbled that he should pick the most qualified candidates of any gender, rather than strive for equity, but we’re not going to link any of them.
ThinkProgress has a roundup of some of the latest reductio ad absurdum responses to the discredited but still apparently “controversial” Planned Parenthood videos–from removing the women’s health provider from employee giving plans to censoring Planned Parenthood speakers at public colleges. My personal favorite: The state legislator in Missouri who suggested writing a bill that would require Planned Parenthood to build a “Vietnam Wall-type” memorial to aborted fetuses.

Finally, if you’re wondering what Plan B, the emergency contraception pill does (prevent pregnancy) and doesn’t (cause abortions) do, check out Cosmo’s handy guide to “Six Things You Never Knew About Plan B.”

Abortion Care, Affordable Care Act, Birth Control Access

Seattle Times, Citing NARAL Report, Says WA Doesn’t Value Women’s Health Care Enough

Seattle Times editorial board member Thanh Tan weighs in on the issue of access to reproductive health care today, arguing that even though Washington is a “good” state on the sliding scale by which we judge birth-control and abortion access in an increasingly anti-choice nation, we need to do much more to ensure that everyone, including low-income people and those living in rural areas, has access to reproductive health care, including abortions.

Pointing to public health budget cuts, the arson at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, and a report this year by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates that found insurance companies were giving out misleading or false information about birth control coverage, Tan writes that “maintaining the existing women’s health infrastructure is challenging.”

“’When access to care is still highly dependent on financial status, racial status, immigrant status or whether you’re Native American or whether you’re in the military — that’s not really equality, and that’s not really good access,” [UW Family Planning Division director Dr. Sarah] Prager says.

“Another contentious issue right now concerns a broad state rule that allows institutions and doctors to refuse to provide abortion care.

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has documented situations where women suffering miscarriages or nonviable pregnancies were denied abortions or the care was delayed.

“I get why Catholic-run hospitals are opposed to terminating pregnancies. However, when publicly owned hospitals run by Catholic organizations or a community’s only hospital refuse to provide or refer for a legal procedure, that crosses a line.”

When the right to choose is limited by hospital protocols, health-care hurdles, location, or income, it isn’t really a choice, which is why, as Tan writes, “If we don’t stand up for the rights we have now, they might not be there for us when we need them later.”

Choice News

Friday Femorandum: The Debate Gap

This week’s Republican debate, unlike the previous two, didn’t give the GOP candidates many opportunities to denounce women’s reproductive rights and hurl invective at Planned Parenthood. Hosted by financial cable channel CNBC, the debate focused mostly on the usual “economic issues,” ignoring the fact that so-called “women’s issues” like the cost of child care, the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and the right to choose when and whether to become a parent are very much economic issues as well .

The Guardian noticed this glaring omission, noting that “the silence from the moderators was surprising  at a moment when the two Democratic frontrunners have made guaranteed family leave a central plank of their platforms and Clinton has hammered her support for equal pay. The Republicans sharing the stage, by contrast, have mostly avoided these topics.” Pundits have criticized the debate moderators for failing to ask pointed questions and rein in the candidates when they interrupted or went over time.

One “women’s issue” that did come in the debate is the fact that women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Moderator Becky Quick asked what the candidates would do to close that gap, and all responded by attacking Obama and the Democrats. The one woman on stage, Carly Fiorina, said she would close the pay gap by mandating equal pay for equal work at all companies across America and instituting a strong enforcement mechanism to ensure that women weren’t being shuffled into part-time work and lower-paying job titles as a way for companies to get around the law.

Just kidding, she actually repeated the utterly debunked talking point that women accounted for 92 percent of the jobs lost during Obama’s second term, implying that the President was to blame for women’s job losses and, apparently, the pay gap. As Media Matters details, the 92 percent figure originated during Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, and was based on cherry-picked data and the fact that the recession, which occurred earlier, was much harder on men than women, and most of the new jobs in the recovery went to men.


As you probably heard, former vice-presidential candidate and current P90X enthusiast Paul Ryan is the new Speaker of the House, an albatross of a job that no one wanted because Tea Party members have made clear they’ll block any legislation that deviates even slightly from their extreme right-wing ideological agenda.hillary clinton benghazi committee laugh e1445557720480 Hillary Clintons best reactions to the Benghazi Committee, in GIFs
So what does Ryan’s ascension mean for women’s health? Yahoo! Health takes a look at Ryan’s record and, spoiler alert, it isn’t pretty. The incoming Speaker has a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee for voting against choice on every one of his 59 votes on reproductive rights. Ryan has also sponsored “personhood” legislation giving fertilized eggs the same rights as human beings, opposed contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act, and sponsored legislation that would have allowed hospitals to refuse to provide even lifesaving abortions. Shockingly, some in the Tea Party have questioned whether he’s sufficiently anti-choice, which tells you a lot about the current state of the Republican Party in Congress.

Finally, although harassment in gaming may seem a bit afield of reproductive rights, silencing women who speak out against threats of violence in one field has widespread implications for women’s voices in general, so please indulge me in an item about, yes, Gamergate.

You might think that a massive media festival that is more than capable of providing security for its high-profile panelists, guests, and entertainers could protect a few female panelists who received death threats for speaking out against threats and harassment in gaming. You’d be wrong.Hillary Clinton testifies to the Benghazi Committee

This week, South by Southwest, the annual music, arts, and tech conference in Austin, canceled a panel on online harassment in gaming (titled, “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games”) in response to threats of violence and harassment against the panelists by people associated with Gamergate, a group known for promoting and participating in online and in-person harassment of women who write about gaming and female game programmers.

You read that right: Instead of ensuring that women in gaming could talk safely about efforts to silence their voices online, SXSW chose to silence them in real life.

Festival planners explained this gobsmackingly boneheaded move by claiming that “preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful.” Chris Klewe, writing for Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron, had this to say about that cowardly response:

You run a festival that features A-list celebrities and tech magnates worth collective billions, superstar athletes, and some of the biggest music acts in the world, and you’re telling me you can’t provide security for a panel of three women? That it’s beyond your resources to hire any sort of police presence when you shut down entire sections of Austin at a time? That the unceasing vitriol these brave individuals face on a daily basis is just too much for your tender feelings to deal with, when you’ve experienced the merest fraction of that torrent of filth they’re forced to endure?


Choice News

Monday Motivation: Rhymes with “Non Sequitur”

download Frontrunning candidate for President of the United States in the year 2015 Ben Carson kicks this week’s Monday Motivation off with a bang, calling himself a “reasonable person” and then, one second later, saying that women who have abortions are the moral equivalent of slave owners. Here he is, in his own words, as quoted by the Washington Post:

“During slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it — during slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything that they chose to do. And what if the abolitionists had said: ‘You know, I don’t believe in slavery. I think it’s wrong, but you guys do whatever you want to do’? Where would we be?”

In case you’re not following Carson’s thread: In this metaphor, women who think they have the right to control their bodies are like slave owners who thought they had the right to own and control other human beings. And the fetus is, I guess, the slave? And anti-choice absolutists (like Carson) are like abolitionists who held their ground because slavery was wrong.  Nah, I don’t think it tracks either.

Carson went on to say that as a “reasonable person,” he was open to anyone who wanted to offer a “reasonable explanation of why they would want to kill a baby.” 

As Melissa at Shakesville notes dryly, “Nothing says ‘reasonable’ like miscategorizing abortion as ‘killing a baby.'”

In other Presidential news, the right-wing website Town Hall laments the fact that Joe Biden, the “last of the marginally pro-life Democrats,” will not be running for President. Biden, who “has opposed both partial-birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion,” doesn’t thrill the absolutist anti-choicers at Town Hall, but his decision not to run does clinch for them the demise of an “already endangered species,” the anti-choice Democrat. Just a reminder, I guess, that old Gropin’ Joe was never going to be the advocate for women that the other Democratic frontrunners likely will.

Newsbusters really, really hates it when prominent women go public with their abortions stories. In one post, the site attacks comedian and actor Martha Plimpton, who supported the #ShoutYourAbortion movement by reading some of the mean tweets she’s gotten from anti-choicers for a pro-choice video called “A Is For,” for “gushing” about the effort to destigmatize abortion. (The site goes on to target other SYA supporters as well as “abortion giant” Planned Parenthood.)

Separately, the site viciously mocks “Leftovers” star Amy Brenneman, who recently told theHuffington Post that she believes abortions shouldn’t be “demonized” and talked about her own abortion. Newsbusters sneers that Brenneman was “so very grateful” to have the ability to get an abortion and suggests that instead of fighting for the right to choose, women should really be fighting to have (even easier) access to guns so they can “protect themselves from burglars, violent jealous ex-boyfriends, and would-be rapists.” Newsbusters: Rhymes with “non sequiturs.”

And finally, after a quick run through the Fox News word salad spinner, a California law requiring fake clinics that call themselves “crisis pregnancy centers” to be slightly more honest with women becomes a rule “forcing crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion.” I guess simply letting women know abortion is legal and available is more information than Fox thinks delicate little pregnant women can handle.