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Visiting a clinic privately and in peace should be a basic right, Philip Goldstone writes.

This is not a new concept; Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania have these zones and shortly so, too, will the Northern Territory.

The zones ensure patients can enter a clinic without being harassed by protesters and recorded without their permission. They provide a bubble of safety around a clinic so patients can have their privacy upheld and can access sexual and reproductive health services without being intimidated.

Fortunately, there is a second chance to implement safe access zones with a private member’s bill due to be debated in the NSW legislative council. The bill, introduced by Labor’s Penny Sharpe, is a second chance for women in NSW to have some form of protection when it comes to seeking sexual and reproductive health services.

For me, and many of my colleagues working in sexual and reproductive health clinics across the country, safe access zones are a personal issue.

I am used to being told daily that I am going to hell. I am used to standing up to protesters who block my path when I am entering my workplace. I can handle the criticism spat at me angrily by strangers. I can do this because I strongly believe in providing sexual and reproductive health services to Australians no matter who they are or where they are.

While I am based in NSW, I have the privilege of working in Marie Stopes clinics across the country. There is a marked difference between places that have safe access zones and those that don’t. Since the zones were implemented in Victoria in 2016, the experience of entering our Maroondah clinic has changed. Where once staff and patients were yelled at and had graphic images thrust at them that are designed to misinform and manipulate, they are now able to attend the clinic in peace.

Whenever safe access zones have been implemented, anti-choice activists assert they will stifle freedom of speech and the right to protest. That is simply untrue. There is no evidence that the implementation of these zones limits debate on the issue of abortion.

The reality is that providing safe zones where patients can access sexual and reproductive health services, including abortions, is more a public health issue than a challenge to free speech.

Studies in the United States, most recently in 2013, have found a direct correlation between a patient’s negative emotional state and the presence of anti-choice activists at clinics. A qualitative study of women’s experiences accessing abortion clinics in the US between 2006 and 2009 also revealed patients attending clinics with protesters found the experience negative and, in some cases traumatic.

The decision to have an abortion is not one that is taken lightly, but it is a legitimate medical decision for a woman, her doctor and any other person she wants to bring into that decision. To stand in her way, literally and metaphorically, is not only a danger to her wellbeing, it is discriminatory.

In 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The convention defines discrimination against women as “… any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”.

Australia signed this convention more than 30 years ago, yet still we are debating whether to protect a woman’s right to access a medical procedure without discrimination.

The politicians of NSW have the power to stop the harassment and vilification of women entering clinics. It is the decent thing to do and it is the right thing to do.

Dr Philip Goldstone is the medical director of Marie Stopes Australia.

Source: New Sydney Morning Herald

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/ive-seen-first-hand-why-we-need-safe-access-zones-around-abortion-clinics-20170525-gwcwyx.html

“California has great public policy regarding abortion access, but great public policy does not always translate to women being able to have greater access to care,” especially in the more rural spaces of the state’s Central Valley.

This article is published in collaboration with California Health Report

Rosalinda Hernandez-Guzman grew up in the same Central Valley town where she is now raising her daughter. Visalia is rich in agriculture—fields of grapes, olives, and citrus ring the city—but it falls behind many other parts of California in access to reproductive health services.

Despite California’s progressive bent—there is a Democratic supermajority in both houses of the state legislature—pockets of the state are staunchly conservative, including some in the Central Valley. Even though abortion is legal under federal and state law, women here often have a tough time actually finding abortion providers.

“California has great public policy regarding abortion access, but great public policy does not always translate to women being able to have greater access to care,” said Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California.

This was the case for Hernandez-Guzman, now 21. Last summer, when her daughter was 2, Hernandez-Guzman became pregnant but knew immediately that she and her husband couldn’t support another child at the moment. They didn’t have enough money for a car or, at times, cell phone service, and Hernandez-Guzman had plans to go back to college to earn her bachelor’s degree.

“When it comes to diapers and clothes and formula and bottles, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “When you have prior bills and another child in diapers … the financial aspect was a huge part of the decision.”

Her decision made, Hernandez-Guzman needed to find a clinic. “There are zero” abortion services in Visalia’s Tulare County, population 460,000, said Sarah Hutchinson, senior policy coordinator for the nonprofit ACT for Women and Girls in the town. “Even for medication abortion, which is up to about 10 weeks [of pregnancy], women have to go to Fresno to get the pills.” That’s a 47-mile drive each way.

The situations for Hernandez-Guzman and others in similar towns show what could happen state- and nationwide if the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump limit abortion access and funding. When running for president, then-Republican nominee Donald Trump said that he would nominate anti-choice judges and that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, states would have jurisdiction over abortion access.

That would likely mean fewer resources for all communities, but compounded barriers for already underserved areas. If abortion does go back to the states, economic security and access to health care could even more heavily “depend on your ZIP code,” said Everitt.

Transportation Challenges

If Hernandez-Guzman had not talked with a friend who worked for ACT, she wouldn’t have known where to turn. Like many in the Central Valley, she was raised in a conservative Catholic Latino family and didn’t think she could ask her community for help. In her family, “we don’t talk about abortion,” she said. So Hernandez-Guzman approached her friend, who shared her story of an abortion at age 17, and helped Hernandez-Guzman make an appointment at one of two Fresno abortion-providing clinics.

“But then it was, ‘How am I going to get there?’” Hernandez-Guzman recalled. “It was just a frustrating feeling that I couldn’t just hop on a bus and just go.”

Buses do run between Visalia and Fresno, Hutchinson said. But the trip typically takes about two hours one way, and some routes can take up to four hours. Also, many people live in rural areas of Tulare County with no bus service. A California nonprofit, ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, has a hotline that people in need of transportation to an abortion appointment can call, but few in the Central Valley know about it, Hutchinson said.

Growing distraught, Hernandez-Guzman finally found transportation to the clinic. “It was hard, but luckily I had a good friend that just took me, no questions asked,” she said.

For women who live in more remote areas of the Central Valley, or for those who need later abortions, access is anything but guaranteed.

In 2014, 43 percent of California counties had no abortion-providing clinics, and 5 percent of California women ages 15 to 44 (considered reproductive age) lived in those counties, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Fresno performs abortions up to 17 weeks of pregnancy. But many Californians must generally go to Los Angeles or San Francisco to access a later abortion, Hutchinson said.

Furthermore, options tend to narrow for the 13- to 18-year-olds who are ACT’s clients. Hutchinson told a story of a 17-year-old girl whose mother found out that she had had a birth control implant in her arm and forced her to get it removed at a local clinic. When the girl became pregnant soon after, the physician assistant at the same clinic shamed her and tried to convince her not to have an abortion, Hutchinson said.

“These are a majority farmworker people breaking their backs with no health insurance, and the things that [health-care workers] say resonate with them and those folks believe them,” she said. “That’s what’s really upsetting to me.”

The girl, who was in an abusive relationship, eventually found help through ACT. “She said, ‘I need to not have a kid now—I need to get a college degree because I’m undocumented,’” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson now is also working on state legislation, Senate Bill 320, which would require public college campuses with student health centers to offer medication abortion. Though the bill, introduced by Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), won’t help young teens who need access to reproductive health care or women who aren’t enrolled in college, it would still greatly expand access across California, and particularly in the Central Valley—home to at least nine colleges that would fall under the umbrella of the legislation, Hutchinson said.

The bill passed with a 6-2 vote through the Senate Health Committee in mid-April and now moves to the Education Committee.

Nearly a year after her abortion, Hernandez-Guzman is preparing to enroll in college and working a secretarial job. She’s thankful she was eventually able to access the care. “I feel like, because of the position I was in,” she said, “I was making a mature decision in my life.”

Source: Rewire

https://rewire.news/article/2017/05/24/blue-state-california-abortions-hard-to-find/

 Once upon a time, a woman found a gold coin she exchanged for an abortion.

The woman was Codie Pete, a then-25-year-old living in a rural part of New Mexico, where the nearest abortion clinic was an hour and a half away from home.

At the time, Pete was making meager wages as a teacher and couldn’t afford health insurance through her employer, which put birth control out of reach, too. So when she unexpectedly became pregnant, she found herself in a tough predicament: The financial straits that left her unable to prevent the pregnancy were the same ones that would stop her from terminating it.

“When the clinic told me over the phone that, even using a sliding scale for my income, the procedure would cost $600, I was floored,” Pete recalled. “I remember being on the phone saying, ‘What do people do if they can’t come up with the $600?’ They couldn’t answer me. At that point I just got off the phone. I didn’t even tell them to schedule me.”

As Pete contemplated which of her belongings — her car? her couch? — she could sell to pay for the procedure, she thought back to, of all things, gold coins her mother had bought Pete and her sister when they were children. By some stroke of fate, her mother confirmed it: Years later, the coins were still in her dad’s office safe. A week later, Pete sold hers for almost exactly $600.

“My abortion story is about this magical coin that just sort of appeared — it was the pot-of-gold or shamrock kind of luck,” Pete said. “That’s what’s terrifying, though. Women’s choice is restricted by our ability to pay for a procedure.”

Pete’s predicament might sound far-fetched, but it’s not uncommon. The last few years have seen drastic cutbacks to reproductive health care access. With plans to defund abortion clinics and cut Medicaid coverage, President Donald Trump‘s administration is slated to drastically reduce the number of individuals who can afford safe abortions.

There’s no understating the effects of those cuts: Some 75% of Planned Parenthood‘s patients are “at or below” 150% of the federal poverty level. As the number of clinics offering abortion services dwindle, many patients have to travel farther to get to one. The money spent on transportation and hotels, as well as lost wages if patients must take days off from work to get the procedure, all add up to put abortion financially out of reach for many people.

Meanwhile, in states where it’s legal for Medicaid to cover abortion services, 89% of abortion patients with Medicaid use their insurance to pay for their care.

While the failure of the Republican health care plan was a significant victory for reproductive rights advocates, state legislators continue to propose abortion restrictions meant to chip away at Roe v. Wade.

And as they do, many more people will have to rely on luck to get the care they need.

A patient at Whole Woman’s Health, a Texas family-planning clinic, examines a state-mandated ultrasound.

Source: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The actual cost of an abortion

There’s a lot of discussion about the legislation preventing people from effectively accessing reproductive health care, but rarely do we talk about how it can also be cost-prohibitive — a barrier that spans from states red to blue.

According to Planned Parenthood, an in-clinic, first-trimester abortion procedure can cost as much as $1,500. For patients who can’t get financial assistance through insurance or Medicaid, the median out-of-pocket cost for an abortion is $575. For more than half of those patients, the $575 amounted to roughly one-third of their monthly income, according to a 2014 study.

These costs skyrocket the longer a pregnant person waits to undergo the procedure. The cruel twist? About 60% of U.S. women live in states that require them to wait — anywhere from 24 to 72 hours — between their initial consultation and their appointment for the actual abortion.

Dr. Sarah Roberts, an associate professor at the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health and one of the 2014 study’s authors, said such laws mean pregnant people often find themselves caught in a tough situation.

“The vast majority of women who want an abortion are very determined to get one and will get one regardless of the barriers,” Roberts said. “But funding is one of those barriers that’s more difficult for women to overcome.”

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Dallas, Texas

Source: LM Otero/AP

“Divine intervention” — in the form of a perfectly timed check in the mail

For Shae Jackson, the only way out of her unintended pregnancy came in the form of her boyfriend’s tuition refund check.

Jackson found out she was pregnant during her sophomore year of college, shortly after she’d gone off birth control due to a life-threatening blood clot. She said the decision to get an abortion was a no-brainer. “No matter how much it cost, [I knew I would] figure it out because I had to get the abortion,” she said.

 But Jackson wasn’t sure how she could possibly come up with the $500 it would cost her at the nearest clinic. She and her boyfriend were both unemployed students with no income who couldn’t come up with several hundred dollars on a whim.

Just when things began to look hopeless, an unexpected check arrived in the mail for her boyfriend. “It was divine intervention,” Jackson said. “I found out I was pregnant in early March, and that was the exact same time the school issued his [tuition] refund check.”

“When I tell my story, I say I was ‘lucky’ quite often because it certainly was a gift that [the check] came when it did — otherwise, I have no idea where I would’ve gotten those resources,” she said.

Pro-abortion rights advocates rally outside the Supreme Court in March 2016.

Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“The good ol’ ‘raising money for my friend’s abortion’ pregame fundraiser”

There was certainly some amount of luck involved when Cecilia Graña-Rosa counted on friends to help come up with the money to fund an abortion for her friend, Julie*.

When Julie found out she was pregnant, she almost immediately informed the father, who offered to Venmo her $50 for an abortion.

“He thought it cost the same as Plan B,” Graña-Rosa said.

The 23-year-old unemployed grad student knew she wanted an abortion the minute she found out she was pregnant. She’d collected five positive home-pregnancy tests in a plastic cup in her bathroom, Graña-Rosa said.

Despite living in a blue state, Julie had a difficult time asserting her right to an abortion. Before she was allowed to entertain the notion of going through with the procedure, she was required to endure multiple sonograms in two different family planning clinics, where staff encouraged Julie to continue with her pregnancy. She paid for these out of pocket because she feared her parents, who oppose abortion, would notice her insurance claims.

“He thought it cost the same as Plan B.”

As she watched her friend’s medical bills pile up, Graña-Rosa had an epiphany: She would turn a party she was planning to host into a fundraiser. As a former student at Vassar College, she said she saw it as both an opportunity to help a friend in need and to see whether her pro-abortion-rights friends from the liberal arts school would “put their money where their mouth is.”

So, in February 2016, Graña-Rosa made a Facebook event titled “The good ol’ ‘raising money for my friend’s abortion’ pregame fundraiser.” While the concept may seem crass or insensitive, Graña-Rosa isn’t the first to think of crowdfunding an abortion.

A GoFundMe search for “abortion” results in such campaigns as “My 15-year-old sister needs an abortion” or “Emergency abortion.” These represent people in situations so dire that they’re looking for financial assistance not from friends, but from perfect strangers. Bailey, a then-23-year-old from Illinois, was among the first to use the platform to crowdfund an abortion when she launched a campaign called “Stop Bailey From Breeding Fund” in 2014.

GoFundMe temporarily removed Bailey’s campaign page, and decided a week later to ban all abortion-related content from appearing on the site. A spokesperson told Mic the site has since changed its policies to allow users to crowdfund all kinds of legal medical procedures, including abortion.

Through Graña-Rosa’s own IRL crowdfunding, she was able to raise $350. But before she could give her friend the money, Julie — uncertain if she’d ever be able to afford the procedure — induced a miscarriage with vitamin C pills. With no abortion to fund, she ended up using the $350 to pay for the sonograms the family planning clinics had required her to have.

That Julie escaped from the situation without any major health complications is, as Graña-Rosa said, “lucky.” Self-induced or so-called “back-alley” abortions are extremely dangerous. Some 68,000 women worldwide die of unsafe abortions every year, placing it among one of the leading causes of maternal death.

Roberts, the associate professor from ANSIRH, said this sort of “luck” can easily run out for many people who become pregnant and don’t want to be.

“These are women who were able to figure it out and pull [the money] together,” Roberts said. There are other women for whom that’s not the case.”

*Name has been changed to allow source to speak freely on sensitive topics. 

Source: MIC

https://mic.com/articles/172540/women-must-rely-on-luck-to-fund-their-abortions-in-trumps-america-it-could-get-worse?utm_campaign=buffer&utm_content=buffer94883&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com#.g7ncC630a

A sweeping anti-abortion bill leaves prosecutors wide discretion over who is charged for unlawful abortions.

Representative Joe Moody, D-El Paso, on the House floor.  SAM DEGRAVE

Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor, was sure there’d been a mistake.

The sweeping anti-abortion bill that passed the Texas House May 19 could allow nearly anyone involved in the process of an unlawful abortion to be charged with a state jail felony, Moody said. That includes the doctor who performed the abortion, but also the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the receptionist who booked the appointment and even the bank teller who cashed the check that paid for the procedure.

“I’m not trying get into policy; I believe this is an unintended consequence of the law,” Moody said on the House floor Friday evening as he introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 8 that would limit who can be prosecuted. Three hours into the abortion debate, there were several calls to order as the El Paso Democrat pleaded with fellow lawmakers to pay attention.

“If the goal is to prosecute people who perform these acts, what’s written here goes way beyond that,” said Moody, one of the leading criminal justice experts in the House. He chairs the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and worked as a prosecutor in the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office for four years.

It wasn’t a mistake. The amendment failed, 51-83 and only one Democrat, Representative Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, voted against.

The Observer spoke to several other attorneys who each interpreted the bill’s applications differently — indicating, at the very least, that the bill provides a subjective tool for prosecutors, who can be politically motivated. And that has Moody worried.

SB 8, which awaits final approval from the Senate, would criminalize “partial birth abortions” and “dismemberment abortions” — both nonmedical terms used by anti-abortion advocates. The first is for a procedure already prohibited under federal law, and the second describes a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, one of the most common forms of second trimester abortions. Both bans would subject a doctor who performs the abortion to a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, and exempt the woman who had the procedure. But under Texas law, prosecutors could come after anyone else involved in the process, unless they’re specifically exempted in the legislation.

State Representative Donna Howard, D-Austin, speaks against SB 8 Friday evening.  SAM DEGRAVE

The “law of parties” in Texas allows a person connected to but not actually committing a crime to also be charged. A person is criminally responsible under Texas law if he or she, acting with intent, “solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense.” The law is intended to help take down criminal networks, Moody says, but can also be wielded against, for example, individuals loosely connected to the provision of an unlawful abortion.

“I think by rejecting my amendment, [opponents showed] their intent was not only to go after physicians. I guess I misunderstood,” Moody told the Observer. “[This bill] is so poorly drafted, so poorly worded, that I think it shows they’re not really concerned about making good policy.”

The key question is whether a person was knowingly involved, said Representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano.

If a bookkeeper or receptionist has no idea what’s going on, they shouldn’t be held to the same responsibility as the doctor performing the abortion, Leach told the Observer. But if they do know, that’s a different story.

State Representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano  SAM DEGRAVE

“If there’s any individual who may not actually be performing the abortion but is knowingly assisting the criminal enterprise — that may not be a good way to put it — who is knowingly assisting in the provision of an unlawful abortion — then our laws ought to be narrowly tailored to hold those responsible,” said Leach, who was concerned Moody’s proposal might have let them off the hook and requested it be withdrawn.

As GOP lawmakers move to expand the scope of prosecution, they’ve also broadened the definition of what constitutes an illegal abortion. Following the 2016 Supreme Court ruling that struck two main provisions from Texas’ House Bill 2, members have shifted their rhetoric on abortion. Instead of claiming to protect women’s health, they’re criminalizing the procedure.

The Abolish Abortion Act, proposed by Arlington Republican Tony Tinderholt, also of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, would criminalize abortion at any stage and charge women and providers with a felony, without exemption for rape or incest. Tinderholt told the Observer the proposal would “force” women to be “more personally responsible.” Another proposal by fellow caucus member Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, would remove the exception for fetal anomaly from the state’s 20-week abortion ban.

Leach, an attorney and Freedom Caucus member who describes himself as “pro-life and for the death penalty,” says there is a problem with how the “law of parties” is used in capital punishment, and he’s worked on bipartisan efforts this session to reform the law.

Without Moody’s failed amendment, the “partial birth abortion” ban does not exclude anyone besides the woman from criminal prosecution. The D&E ban, meanwhile, does clarify who cannot be prosecuted: “an employee or agent acting under the direction of a physician… or a person who fills a prescription or provides equipment” used in the abortion.

Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said that he would support individuals who knowingly assist with the abortion facing prosecution, but that Moody’s inclusion of drivers and receptionists was “far-fetched.”

“It’s possible a third party could be prosecuted, but it would have to be someone close to the physician that is knowingly performing the abortion, like a nurse,” added Pojman, who said that in his 25 years lobbying against abortion in Texas, he’s never heard this kind of objection.

Leach also said he didn’t think Moody’s amendment was necessary, because the bill already protects unknowing participants from criminal prosecution.

“That’s wrong, and I told him that,” said Moody. The “knowingly perform” language in the bill is referring to the abortion provider only, but “others don’t have to know what’s going on, they can just be part of the process…The law of parties casts a wide net,” Moody said. “Prosecutors have wide discretion on the charges being brought.”

This ample freedom granted to prosecutors concerns critics of SB 8.

“We worry about rogue or malicious prosecutors,” said Blake Rocap, legal counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “The point of this bill isn’t smart criminal justice; it’s targeted prosecution of people who want to help women access health care.”

Source: Texas Observer

https://www.texasobserver.org/texas-bill-could-send-people-to-jail-for-driving-a-woman-to-an-abortion/

“I believe that as an abortion provider, I am doing God’s work,” writes Parker in his new memoir, “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.” “I am protecting women’s rights, their human right to decide their futures for themselves, and to live their lives as they see fit.”

That is why he’s been invited to California on this lovely Tuesday evening. Parker has come from Alabama to accept a Person of the Year award from a 26-year-old abortion rights group that is not famous, but certainly deserves to be.

The group is the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, or WRRAP. Founded 26 years ago by Joyce Schorr, a former sales executive for Reynolds, WRRAP gives money to women who can’t afford to pay for their abortions. (Previous winners include Gloria Steinem, Dr. George Tiller, Sarah Weddington … and Kelsey Grammer, who was for abortion rights before he was against them.)

Since the early 1990s, Schorr estimates, the group has helped 40,000 women, chipping in relatively small sums, usually between $200 and $500.

“The women we help are very, very poor,” said Schorr, who owns an entertainment company with her husband, Arny Schorr, a former Rhino Records executive. “Everything is a struggle. It’s hard for them to find transportation. The last thing they need is another child to take care of.’’

Parker grew up poor and fatherless in Birmingham, Ala. At 15, under the tutelage of a coach who was a Pentecostal minister, he became a born-again Christian. The first member of his family to attend college, he carried a Bible door to door in his dorm, spreading the gospel of Jesus. After he became an OB-GYN, he refused to perform abortions for religious reasons, but would refer women to doctors who did.

Eventually, though, as he practiced at the Queen’s Medical Center in Hawaii, he started to see abortion as a critical part of his patients’ care, its restriction as a profound injustice.

One day, as he contemplated the parable of the Good Samaritan, he had an epiphany: “It was like a punch, all at once in my spiritual gut,” he writes in his memoir. “The Scripture came alive and it spoke to me. For the Samaritan, the person in need was a fallen traveler. For me, it was a pregnant woman. It became not: Is it right for me, as a Christian, to perform abortions? But rather, is it right for me, as a Christian to refuse to do them? Now I saw, without doubt, fear or ambivalence, that it was appropriate, even ethical for me to provide this care.”

In his book and in conversations — including a recent appearance on “The Daily Show” — Parker compares forcing a woman to bear a child to slavery. It’s generally unwise to compare anything that is not slavery to slavery, but Parker is unbowed.

“I know it’s a powerful analogy to draw, and people are skittish,” he told me, “but if you look at what was evil about slavery and what happens to women when they are forced to give birth, it’s apt. When we make fetuses ‘people’ and demand that women be subordinated in servitude to them… women become a means to an end. It’s no different from slavery.”

The conventional wisdom is that to be devoutly religious is to be antiabortion — but like Parker’s epiphany, Schorr’s impulse to help women obtain abortions also has spiritual roots, though perhaps in a more roundabout way.

Her moment came in 1991, as she watched an episode of the “Phil Donahue Show.’’ His guests were Quaker women who ran a kind of underground railroad for women needing abortions in the years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion. “In 1969, when I was in college, my best friend had almost died from an illegal abortion,” Schorr told me. “It just triggered me: I can’t let this happen. We need to help these women get abortions.”

She approached the National Council of Jewish Women in Los Angeles and was given permission to start WRRAP under its auspices. Four years later, WRRAP became an independent nonprofit, run by Schorr, who has never collected a salary. About 50 volunteers help out.

There is no physical location; two volunteers take calls from clinics for five hours each day. “We fund anyone who calls us,” Schorr said. In the beginning, she said, she took calls from desperate women, but discovered it was far more efficient to have clinics call on behalf of patients. (Patients — and donors — can make direct contact through the group’s website.)

Until recently, WRRAP’s annual budget had been about $35,000. “We finally caught the eye of some very big donors,’’ she said. In the last two years, these anonymous philanthropists have given a total of $550,000.

The money will enable Schorr, who at 65 is nearing retirement, to finally hire an executive director, and put a succession plan in place.

The abortion debate in this country waxes and wanes. The fundamental precept enshrined in Roe vs. Wade, that women have a fundamental right to control their own bodies, still stands.

But we appear to be in a moment when the antiabortion forces are ascendant, both in statehouses, which are defunding critically important abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, and at the federal level, where the Trump administration is systematically dismantling America’s commitment to family planning programs around the globe.

Heroes like Willie Parker and Joyce Schorr, and the people who work in the trenches with them every day, give me reason to believe that no matter how hard some folks try to turn back the clock on women’s rights, the antiabortion mission is doomed to fail.

Source: LA Times

http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-abortion-doctor-201705121-story.html

Right-wing attacks on Planned Parenthood are working: Clinics close in Iowa, cutting off low-income women from services
(Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall/Photo Montage by Salon)

Last summer the anti-choice movement was dealt a serious blow when the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot use medically unnecessary regulations as a pretext to shut down abortion clinics. But that doesn’t mean the religious right has given up on its mission to make sure that women who have sex are punished with unwanted pregnancy for it. Under President Donald Trump, anti-choicers are redoubling efforts to destroy Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country, which not only makes abortion harder to receive but, as an added bonus for the forced-birth brigade, will also cut off many thousands of low-income women from access to contraception.

Earlier this month, Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed an appropriations bill that bars women on Medicaid from receiving any non-abortion services from clinics that offer abortion. The move is forcing four of the state’s 12 Planned Parenthood clinics to close.

Texas pulled off a similar move in 2011, passing a law refusing to let Medicaid patients use Planned Parenthood for any services. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services pulled millions of dollars of Medicaid family planning funding from the state because refusing to let a willing provider offer services to Medicaid patients violates federal regulations.

But with Trump in the White House, Texas is petitioning the government to retrieve its Medicaid money back without having to let Planned Parenthood be part of the roster of providers. Branstad’s move suggests that Iowa Republicans are also hopeful that the federal government will simply let states violate long-standing norms that allow women on Medicaid to choose the best provider for them.

 “We have seen what happens in states like Texas, and now in Iowa, when politicians attack access to care at Planned Parenthood — it’s devastating, and sometimes deadly, for the women who are left with nowhere to turn for care,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.
She isn’t exaggerating. As Joseph E. Potter and Kari White of the Texas Evaluation Project explained in a February piece for The Washington Post, “Five years ago, we learned in Texas what can happen when efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are carried out: The network of health-care providers falls apart and women lose access to essential preventive services.” In their research, they found that women had trouble receiving contraception and in many cases they were unable to prevent pregnancy.

There’s good reason to fear that many women in Iowa are going to lose access to contraception because of these clinic closures. A 2017 report by the Guttmacher Institute found that Planned Parenthood is the main provider of government-subsidized contraception in three out of the four counties that are losing their clinic. In Woodbury County 80 percent of patients receiving family planning services from publicly funded clinics went to Planned Parenthood. In Lee County, it was 92 percent; in Des Moines County, 96 percent.

Anti-choicers have an answer for this, of course: Women can just go somewhere else.

“There are many quality community health centers in Iowa that provide comprehensive health care to women and families across the state,” Maggie DeWitte, director of Iowans for Life, said in a statement.

Notice, however, the vague words about “comprehensive health care.” DeWitte does not mention gynecological health care, which Planned Parenthood specializes in, and she certainly doesn’t mention contraception.

This is not an accident. There are other places that women can go if they have a cold, break their arm or need their blood pressure checked, but receiving gynecological care, which is a medical specialty, or obtaining affordable contraception is another matter entirely. Another report from the Guttmacher Institute, released this month, shows that replacing family planning services isn’t so easy. The researchers estimate that other clinics would often have to assume double or triple the number of contraception clients that they currently serve to make up the loss of Planned Parenthood’s family planning services. Many of these clinics are already extremely busy, and simply wouldn’t be able to do it.

But there’s good reason to believe that anti-choicers are not only fine with cutting women off from receiving contraception, but that in fact that’s the ultimate goal. To be clear, the funding being cut here never went to abortion. It was always earmarked for contraception and other sexual health care. The simplest explanation for why people want to cut contraception money is that they want to cut contraception money.

Beyond that, it doesn’t take a super sleuth to realize that anti-choice activists don’t like birth control any more than they like the abortions that birth control prevents. The Iowans for Life website is stuffed full of anti-contraception propaganda, including claims that intrauterine devices are being forced on unwilling women and assertions that Planned Parenthood “heavily promotes contraceptive methods that may increase women’s risk of contracting STDs.” (This claim only makes sense if you assume that women who don’t use contraception will instead abstain from sex, an assumption for which there is no real evidence.)

 On its Facebook page, Iowans for Life has praised doctors for refusing to prescribe contraception and advertised events built around trying to scare women out of preventing pregnancy. The group has also posted articles sneering at Planned Parenthood for offering “easy contraception,” arguing that contraception and sex education have “exacerbated a promiscuous sexual culture,” and claiming that former President Barack Obama created a “forced contraceptive regime.” (In reality, no one has been forced to use contraception by the Obama administration or the Affordable Care Act.)

The agenda here is not “life.” It’s punishing women for having sex. The loss of services to prevent pregnancy and to prevent or treat sexually transmitted infections is a feature, not a bug.

If Texas is successful in restoring its Medicaid funding without reinstating the right of Medicaid patients to use Planned Parenthood services, then expect more states to follow in the path blazed by Texas and Iowa. Anti-choice activists may have lost the ability to shut down abortion services through legal shenanigans, but they will fight to make sure sexually active women are punished one way or another. Going after Planned Parenthood, which caters primarily to low-income patients, has the added bonus of punishing poor people for daring to exist at all. It’s the perfect double whammy in the age of misogynist cruelty ushered in by the Trump administration.

Source: Salon

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/22/right-wing-attacks-on-planned-parenthood-are-working-clinics-close-in-iowa-cutting-off-low-income-women/

Having largely failed to convince women that ending a pregnancy is immoral, abortion opponents have turned to economic attacks

Last week the Trump administration announced a significantly expanded global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

The global gag rule prohibits any U.S. foreign aid from going to organizations that provide, advocate for or even discuss safe abortion services. Under previous Republican administrations, the rule applied to approximately $600 million in funds for family planning. Under Trump’s expansion, the rule puts $8.8 billion for a range of programs addressing health issues like maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, malaria and Ebola in jeopardy.

This expanded gag rule is an economic attack aimed at preventing the poorest women in the world from obtaining or even learning about safe abortion services, which will inevitably result in increased mortality from unsafe abortion as well as collateral damage to poor people in need of other life-saving health services. It is a significant escalation in the broader campaign by U.S. abortion opponents to use economic coercion to stop women from obtaining safe abortions at home and abroad – a strategy abortion opponents have embraced because, after losing the legal battle decades ago, they have utterly failed to convince women that ending a pregnancy is immoral.

Though abortion opponents like to pretend the Supreme Court made up the right to abortion out of thin air, Roe v. Wade was in fact the inevitable result of the Court’s gradual recognition that the Constitution applies to women, which means women also enjoy the fundamental rights to bodily integrity and personal autonomy that the Court had long recognized are protected by the Bill of Rights. Numerous lower and state courts had already ruled that the Constitution did not allow the government to force a person to carry a pregnancy to term against her will. Those decisions are in keeping with other rulings – and most people’s intuition – that one’s body and one’s decisions about family are sacred. The government can’t, for example, control how many children you have by forcing you to be sterilized. Nor can it invade your body by compelling you to donate an organ – or even just blood – to save a born person’s life.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld its ruling in Roe that a person has a fundamental right to end a pregnancy before fetal viability. The 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey gave states greater leeway to try to persuade women to carry to term, but dashed any realistic hopes for recriminalization. As Justice Kennedy put it in a later case, “Foreclosed from using the machinery of government to ban abortions in early term, those who oppose it are remitted to debate the issue in its moral dimensions.”

But opponents have had little success convincing women that abortion is immoral. Nearly half of all women with unintended pregnancies in the United States end them. Even after a significant drop in the abortion rate that coincided with improved access to contraception under Obamacare, close to a million women a year have abortions in the U.S. Even women who identify as anti-abortion tend to think their own abortions are justified. Studies show laws requiring women to undergo anti-abortion counseling or view embryonic ultrasounds do not cause women to change their minds.

So having failed to convince women not to have abortions, opponents have resorted to coercion. This isn’t a new strategy – in the wake of Roe, Congress enacted the Hyde Amendment, barring women on Medicaid from using their insurance to afford safe abortion care and therefore ensuring poor women continued to die from unsafe abortions, even after the procedure was legalized. As abortion opponents’ hopes of winning the legal or moral argument have dimmed in the decades since, they have focused their efforts on erecting new financial barriers to deprive low-income women of abortion care.

For example, the Trumpcare bill passed by the House bars individuals receiving federal Medicaid – who already lack abortion coverage thanks to the Hyde Amendment – from receiving non-abortion health care at Planned Parenthood. The end goal is to cause Planned Parenthood clinics to close, so that ending a pregnancy involves travel that will be cost-prohibitive for some women. The bill also aims to eliminate abortion coverage in private insurance plans by making anyone with coverage ineligible for tax credits. Similarly, targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, like those struck down by the Supreme Court last term, use bogus health regulations to shut down clinics and drive up costs and wait times at the clinics that remain.

Laws that put quality abortion financially out of reach are more effective at keeping women from having abortions than efforts to convince them to carry to term willingly – such laws are associated with later abortions, increased self-abortion attempts and moderately decreased abortion rates. However, a woman in the U.S. who has made up her mind to have an abortion will typically find a way to get one, come hell or high water – though doing so may jeopardize her ability to pay her rent or feed her kids. Thus, the biggest bang for one’s anti-abortion buck, so to speak, is in depriving the global poor of information and safe procedures. That’s exactly what the Trump administration’s expanded global gag rule does.

More than 21 million women have unsafe abortions each year; the deaths that result from such procedures make up 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. When the gag rule is in place health organizations have to stop providing accurate information about safe abortion or lose all U.S. funding for their non-abortion services. As a result, organizations that continue to offer accurate health information can’t provide as many women with contraception, so the rate of unintended pregnancies increases. Women determined to end their pregnancies who have little access to or even information about safe abortion then resort to unsafe abortion in greater numbers. The second Bush administration, during which the gag rule was last in place, amended it to allow funded organizations to treat women after they’d had unsafe abortions – but it isn’t clear that Trump’s version of the rule even allows for that.

To be clear, federal law already prohibits U.S. aid from going toward the provision of abortion services. The gag rule is about preventing groups from lobbying governments for safe, legal abortion and keeping women in the dark where legal services are available. There is no better illustration of the fact that abortion opponents have lost the moral argument than the harm they are willing to inflict just to stamp out dialogue and information. Abortion opponents can do little to stop a woman from deciding an abortion is a moral choice in the best interest of herself and her family – but they can use her poverty to prevent her from getting a safe one.

Source: Rolling Stone

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/trumps-abortion-policy-isnt-about-morality-its-coercion-w483259?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=daily&utm_campaign=052317_10