Senator Hobbs – “It’s 2015, how can anyone NOT support women’s health care?”

by Washington State Senator Steve Hobbs

Over the years I have been asked why I am such a strong supporter of a woman’s right to control her own reproductive destiny and health care options. Many reasons have crossed my mind while thinking about that question but I kept coming back to another question – it’s 2015, how could anyone NOT support women’s health care?

More than 40 years after Roe v Wade, the fight still rages. Legislation that would protect these basic rights and access like the Reproductive Health Act and the Employee Reproductive Choice Act continue to be met with opposition.

Not only are common sense bills protecting a woman’s access to health care being obstructed, we continue to see attempts to erode these inalienable rights both at the state and federal level.

There are many ways those against choice erect these barriers. Some attempt to cut funding for family planning organizations, others push archaic forms of legislation better suited to 1915 than 2015. Even the Supreme Court in its recent Hobby Lobby decision gave businesses the power to force their beliefs on their employees.

For all these reasons and more, I continue to fight for the rights of women and their families to make their own choices.

So I guess my answer to the original question is this: I take offense to political and business entities pretending to know what they think is best for people they’ve never met. During my time advocating for the Reproductive Parity Act and other health care access I have met thousands of people involved in this fight and I can safely say that every one of them and their reasons for fighting are unique.

That is why choice is important. That is why every woman must have the ability to control her own reproductive destiny. That is why I will continue to fight for that right.

This guest post from State Senator Steve Hobbs is the first in a multi-part series asking lawmakers to answer why they are working to defend reproductive freedom. Senator Hobbs is the prime bill sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act, one of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s priority bills in the 2015 legislative session. This bill will move Washington toward gender equality and equitable access to reproductive health care for all women and families. 

Guest blog by Executive Director, Rachel Berkson

Rachel Berkson, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington

We delivered cupcakes to pro-choice champions in Olympia yesterday to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v Wade.
We delivered cupcakes to pro-choice champions in Olympia yesterday to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v Wade.

We’ve asked some of the lawmakers who represent us in the Washington State Legislature to share why, 42 years after Roe v Wade was decided, they continue to fight to pass laws that advance reproductive freedom.  I’m very excited to hear what they have to say, but the staff at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington thought it’s only fair if I share what keeps me working for reproductive freedom and justice every day. So, to kick off a weekly blog series, here’s why I do what I do:

Roe v Wade was decided in 1973 and women like my mom can still remember thinking, “We’ve won! On to fight the next battle!”  But reality check set in fast – at least you weren’t going to be thrown in jail for telling someone about birth control or need to use an underground network to get an abortion by a doctor not a butcher.  Injustice remained in the form of laws that impose unfair barriers to accessing contraception and abortion. These barriers disproportionately affected young women, low-income women and women of color.

Maybe it’s not a popular thing to do as a mom, but I’m just going to say it: having a kid is expensive! I’m not just talking a little bit expensive.  My wonderful, wouldn’t trade him for anything son Oliver is the most expensive investment I have ever made (and I’ve even bought a house – in Seattle!)

His birth, a complicated one, was expensive too and I was lucky to have a good insurance plan. Then, of course, there were the years using birth control before and after. I won’t even go into the cost of childcare. It seriously adds up to being pretty darn expensive to be in your childbearing years.

It also turns out to be pretty darn unpredictable. The other day I saw this chart that shows the likely rates of failure of different forms of contraception and your odds of becoming pregnant over time. That’s what stood out to me… the part that shows how over time your odds are increasing. Yeah. News flash- the childbearing years for the average woman start around age 12 and last until you are well into your forties.

All I’m saying is, the decision of when and if to be a parent or add to your family is already one of the most carefully thought-out and important events in your life.  But too often the economic burden of ensuring that decision is made when a person or a couple is ready to parent, falls to a woman. Women – who already earn less than men, are more likely to work in jobs that don’t have benefits like paid sick leave and have their health care singled out for exclusion by insurance companies and hospital systems – must pay the cost of being of childbearing age.

That’s what gets me up and into work as the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington every day.  It’s not true reproductive freedom if only people with the financial means to pay for their contraception, maternity care and abortion care out of pocket get to have it. I wake up to fight for gender equality every day because that’s the world I want my beautiful son to live in.

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.