30-nov

Texas will soon require abortion providers to cremate or bury all fetal remains. Lawmakers defend the legislation by arguing that it places no undue burden on women, but many are concerned about how this will affect women’s healthcare in Texas.

Texas Department of State Health Services officials finalized new rules for abortion providers on Monday that will mandate all aborted fetuses be cremated or buried, regardless of trimester. The rules are set to take effect on December 19 to the dismay of reproductive rights activists, the medical community and the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas.

The administrative rule was instituted in July and was supported by a number of pro-life and Christian organizations, but it did not receive any blessings from medical associations, civil rights groups or social worker groups who all spoke out against the regulation. The cost of cremation or funerals would not be shouldered by the patients but rather the clinics and hospitals.

Some see this as an attempt to force medical providers from providing abortions due to the basic funeral service fee of $2,000, according to a letter from the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas to the State Health Service in late July.

Health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams countered this argument, telling the Dallas Morning News: “While the methods described in the new rules may have a cost, that cost is expected to be offset by costs currently being spent by facilities on disposition for transportation, storage, incineration, steam disinfection and/or landfill disposal.

The health commission also defended the measure as a move to enhance the “protection of the health and safety of the public.” However, the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Hospital Association both disagreed with this, as did the Healthcare Waste Institute of the National Waste and Recycling Association (HWI), which felt it posed more risks than benefits.

The HWI pointed out that these rules require generators that can separate waste materials for proper handling, which is impossible for the commercial facilities that handle this kind of medical waste.

Even attempting to do so would place employees at great risk,” the HWI commented.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also commented that there is no evidence that current disposal methods pose any public health risk, commenting that “the current laws and professional standards already require safe and respectful disposition of medical waste.

The regulation originally called for the same funeral treatment to be extended to miscarried fetuses or abortions that occur at home, such as women who procure a medical abortion via pill. That provision was later removed, further complicating the logic behind requiring cremation for fetal tissue resulting from abortions.

Reproductive rights activists believe that the upcoming law has nothing to do with safely disposing medical waste.

This regulation has no basis in public health, and it’s just a pretext for putting an additional burden on women who choose abortion or who suffer miscarriage,” staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, David Brown, told Broadly.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed similar thoughts. Trisha Trigilio, a staff attorney for the ACLU, told Broadly, “These are special regulations that only apply to fetal tissue, not other human tissue, and the rules only apply to health care facilities like abortion providers, not women who may miscarry in their homes. Texas has advanced zero evidence – zero – that there is a public health reason to treat miscarriages and abortions differently.

https://www.rt.com/usa/368639-abortion-laws-texas-funerals/

Source: RT

10-nov

Donald Trump made some pretty scary threats during the election about cracking down on abortion. Here’s a quick refresher on his campaign promises — and why women have every right to be very worried.

Trump has flip-flopped on abortion, and seems to have adopted a rather extreme stance on the issue. Back in 1999 on an episode of “Meet the Press”, Trump said he “hated” abortion, but being from New York, admitted that he is “pro-choice in every respect”. Fast forward to the recently concluded election, and it’s clear that Trump has changed his tune. In a September 2016 letter addressed to “Pro-Life Leader”, Trump made his position on abortion painfully clear, saying he’s committed to:

  • Nominating pro-life justices to the US Supreme Court
  • Signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as it continues to perform abortions, and reallocating its funding to community health centres that provide comprehensive health care for women
  • Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions

Earlier this year, Trump said that abortions are “not acceptable”, and that women who try to obtain them should be subject “to some form of punishment“. Following a public outcry, Trump backtracked on his remarks, saying it’s not women who should be punished for having an abortion, but the doctors who perform the procedure.

As noted in his September letter, and as he remarked during the final presidential debate on October 19, Trump is particularly opposed to so-called “partial-birth” abortions, or what doctors call intact dilation and extraction. According to US federal law, this late-term procedure is acceptable if the life of the mother is at stake. But during the last debate, Trump didn’t seem to care, saying, “in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother,” adding that it can happen “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”

But as noted by the Guttmacher Institute, 90 per cent of all abortions take place within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A mere 1.5 per cent of abortions take place beyond the 20 week mark, the vast majority of which happen before the 24 week mark. Thankfully, this issue won’t affect most women, but that’s small consolation for those whose lives might depend on it.

The Trump Administration’s approach to Planned Parenthood in particular is all but certain to be a nightmare. The organisation provides services for millions of women (and men), including sexual education and reproductive healthcare. But that hasn’t done much to thwart a largely Republican effort to completely strip it of resources and power. It’s a coordinated campaign that’s been taking place at the Congressional level for some time now; a Trump administration could bring an entirely new dimension of power into the mix.

Mike Pence, in particular, has consistently positioned himself as an opponent to the organisation. In October, during a speech at Liberty University, he promised that “a Trump-Pence administration will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those dollars to women’s health care that doesn’t provide abortion services”. In 2011, the House of Representatives passed a bill co-sponsored by Pence to defund the group.

“He’s been called a one-man crusade against Planned Parenthood, and he got his start going after them earlier than most. I would definitely call him an extremist,” Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic representative for Illinois, told the Guardian in July.

Following Trump’s victory yesterday, pro-life activists cheered. It’s an ominous sign of what’s to come, though public opposition will be formidable. “Trump would ban abortion, and eliminate women’s ability to have birth control covered by health insurance,” noted Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a CNN article. “A Trump presidency would be a disaster for women.”

Indeed, Trump could threaten women’s procreative liberties by making it much more difficult to acquire birth control. As it stands, birth-control pills are free under the Affordable Care Act, but Trump says he wants Congress to repeal this act as soon as possible. In the very near future, it could be more difficult for women to avoid getting pregnant and getting an abortion. It suddenly feels like the 19th century.

American pro-choice women are not going to relinquish their right to an abortion without a fight. What’s more, Trump and his Supreme Court justices will have their hands full trying to repeal or find loopholes to Roe V. Wade, the precedent that upholds a woman’s right to an abortion.

Yes, women have a right to be worried, but it may be more difficult — and politically damaging — for Trump to go through with his threats. Sadly, this is a man that doesn’t seem to care about the consequences.

http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/11/donald-trump-is-about-to-declare-war-on-womens-bodies/

Source: GIZMODO

9-nov-3

THERE are two ways to think about the future of the Supreme Court in the wake of last night’s stunning upset in the presidential race: taking Donald Trump at his word when he says he will load the bench with conservatives, or, in view of his penchant for changing his mind, taking these promises with a shaker full of salt. Neither offers much solace to liberals.

Mr Trump has pledged to appoint highly conservative justices who will uphold gun rights, walk back the 18-month-old decision allowing gays and lesbians to wed and “automatically” overturn Roe v Wade, the 1971 ruling recognising a right to abortion choice. On the campaign trail, Mr Trump provided more information about his intentions with regard to the nation’s highest court than any presidential candidate has ever divulged: not one list of potential nominees but two, totalling 21 souls he says merit a shot in one of the Supreme Court’s nine seats.

That is 21 more names than previous applicants for the White House—including Hillary Clinton—have made public. Mr Trump released his first list of 11 names in May to shore up support for his budding nomination and to reassure conservatives that he could take just as hard a line on replacing Antonin Scalia, the arch-conservative justice who died in February, as his nearest rival, Ted Cruz. Publicising the roster, which was curated with the help of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two solidly conservative think tanks, was a highly unorthodox move, and it’s likely Mr Trump knew very little about any of the potential nominees. But the stunt had its intended effect: the conservative base coalesced around Mr Trump and the real-estate magnate took the mantle of the Republican party.

The original Trump Eleven were all white judges, six sitting on federal circuit courts and five on state supreme courts. In line with what would become a promise to “drain the swamp” in the final weeks of his campaign, none hailed from inside the Washington beltway. That is a remarkable slight to the DC Court of Appeals, an institution where many presidents have fished for nominees. Of the eight justices currently on the Supreme Court, three once served on the DC court: the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg and conservatives Clarence Thomas and John Roberts, the chief. Barack Obama’s pick to replace Mr Scalia, Merrick Garland, is the DC circuit court’s chief judge.

Late in September, Mr Trump added ten more potential picks to his Supreme Court wish list. This list was more diverse. It included more women and three people of colour, including Amul Thapar, a Detroit-born judge of South Asian descent; Federico Moreno, a Florida judge who hails from Venezuela; and Robert Young, the black chief of Michigan’s supreme court. It also featured Mike Lee, a senator from Utah who refused to endorse Mr Trump and who called on him to quit the race following revelations about his treatment of women in October. Mr Lee has said he is happy serving in the Senate and is not interested in taking a seat on the Supreme Court.

Nobody knows who Mr Trump will actually tap for Mr Scalia’s empty seat. Mr Trump himself might have little clue. In the course of his business career, the president-elect has shown a remarkable ability to dodge and parry and reverse himself on everything from the war in Iraq to immigration policy to Mr Obama’s birthplace. Notably, Mr Trump never said he would choose one of the 21 people on his lists: he said the names should be viewed as “a guide” he would consult when sitting down to make his selection. They are “representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value”, he said. Time will tell whether those principles make their way into an actual Trump nominee.

But with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, there is only one barrier to Mr Trump seating a justice of his choice: the Senate filibuster, a maneouver that permits the minority party to prolong debate and block votes as long as the majority is weaker than 60 votes. Senate leaders told The Economist over the summer that this last line of defence will be erased no matter which party takes the chamber in the November election. With their successful nine-month stonewall of Mr Garland now looking like a brilliant move to preserve a half-century-long conservative tilt on the Supreme Court, Republicans will have no reason to bow to a Senate rule that hamstrings their new president. Expect the filibuster to dissolve and Mr Trump to have his way with the empty chair—one way or another.

Meanwhile, last night’s vote may have changed retirement plans for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83 and Stephen Breyer, 78, the elder liberals on a court that is destined to swing to the right. If they hang up their robes over the next four years, the Supreme Court may be unrecognisable a generation down the road.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2016/11/nominator-chief

Source: The Economist

3rd-nov-post

Women from Northern Ireland who seek abortion are “second-class citizens”, the Supreme Court has been told.

On Wednesday, the court heard a legal challenge brought by a mother and daughter who want women from Northern Ireland to be allowed access to NHS-funded abortion care in England.

Women from Northern Ireland are not entitled to free NHS abortions in England.

Judgement in the case has been reserved until a later date.

In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

‘Desperate and stressful practices’

The case at the centre of the hearing was originally brought in 2014 by a young woman, A, and her mother, B.

The young woman was 15 when she and her mother travelled to Manchester to have an abortion, at a reported cost of £900.

According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), last year 833 women were recorded as having travelled from Northern Ireland to England and Wales for abortion care.

Analysis: Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent

If A succeeds it could open the way for women from Northern Ireland to be permitted abortions on the NHS in England.

She argues that the Secretary of State for Health failed to discharge his duty under section three of the NHS Act 2006 to “meet all reasonable requirements” in England for services – including abortion.

A also argues that her human rights under Article 8 and Article 12 of European Convention of Human Rights, have been breached and she has been discriminated against – by reason of being treated differently from other women in England.

However, the fact that abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland – save in exceptional circumstances – remains a major obstacle.

Their challenge against a ruling that prevents women from Northern Ireland having free NHS abortions in England was unsuccessful at the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but they were granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In court, a lawyer for the two women said that women in A’s position “find themselves in desperate and stressful practices and become second-class citizens in abortion”.

He added that B said it was “more stressful, humiliating and traumatic for a 15-year-old girl than it needs to be”.

Lady Hale, the deputy president of the Supreme Court, told the women’s lawyers that she was far more interested in the human rights arguments in the case than the NHS Act arguments.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-37837283

Source: BBC

 

In a report from The Hill, the Republican nominee sent a letter to anti-abortion leaders dated “September 2016,” calling on them to join his campaign’s “Pro-Life Coalition.” This group would be lead by Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion non-profit organization. The letter lays out a tougher stance than we’ve seen from Trump up to this point.

Most notably, he commits to making the Hyde Amendment permanent law, “to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.” But as Rebecca Traister at The Cut points out, this will limit many women’s ability to have control over their health choices. Traister writes:

“The Hyde Amendment means that American women—many of them women of color—who cannot afford health insurance are effectively prevented from availing themselves of a legal medical procedure that is their right and that is fundamental to their ability to exert autonomy over their reproductive lives and thus their economic and familial futures.”

 

Trump also compares his stance on abortion to that of his opponent Hillary Clinton, who supports the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, a move that the Democratic Party laid out in its platform earlier this summer. Trump’s letter also correctly notes that Clinton is committed to appointing pro-choice justices, but falsely claims that Clinton supports abortion until an hour before birth. In addition to making Hyde permanent law, Trump’s letter says he would sign the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that bans abortions after 20 weeks, and that Planned Parenthood would be defunded if it continued to perform abortions.

 

Source:  http://www.glamour.com/story/donald-trump-anti-abortion-stance

Congressional-sealCongress began the 2015 session proposing more anti-abortion legislation, keeping in step with legislators at the state level doing the same. Abortion rights have been chipped away so continuously, many of us have come to expect more, no matter how ludicrous.

The proposed laws calling for intrusive, expensive, and uncomfortable (even painful)  transvaginal ultrasounds and mandated scripted information containing unscientific , inaccurate or incorrect information to abortion patients serve no purpose but to promote anti-abortion propaganda and delay access to abortion services.  Some proposals are truly bizarre. An addendum to legislation in North Carolina that passed in 2013 is currently being pushed by some politicians to “…[establish] governing and quality assurance boards and [designate] a chief executive to handle day-to-day operations…”  Exactly what will an additional layer of bureaucracy in a medical practice accomplish for women’s health?

restrictions-2011-2013_smWhen asked to describe the benefits of these laws, the answers are generally the same and women generally have reactions of disbelief to their claims:

Women need to be “properly” informed. Once they are provided the right information, they will be less likely to have an abortion. Uh, yeah, even we women know that we really just do not know what we are doing when it comes to pregnancy, abortion, or other decisions involving our reproductive lives. Yep. We women need the wisdom and personal, often religious, convictions of politicians before we can feel confidence in our decision. We should not trust ourselves or our medical care providers.

It protects women’s health. Abortion is such a dangerous procedure with two victims – the pregnant mom is scarred for life and her child is killed. Can you please just give specifics about how it actually protects women? Are you saying that childbirth is safer or, really, be honest, are you just trying to put another barrier in place to stop women from choosing to have an abortion? Or, are you thinking illegal abortion would be better somehow?

We care about women and children. Oh, I know, I know…you will eventually convince me to give birth whether I am a healthy young woman, a 46-year-old woman with four children and no desire for more, a woman with chronic health conditions, a 13-year-old unprepared for pregnancy and parenting, an 11-year-old pregnant as a result of repeated sexual molestation from a male relative, or any other woman in any other circumstance. You care so much that you will promise to support me spiritually, emotionally, and financially until my offspring become adults. Oh, wait…I forgot, most of you actually stop supporting women once we give birth, once the fetus becomes a child.

preg patientsIf we assume for a moment that those who support abortion restrictions are sincere in their claims that they believe women should be properly informed, that the laws protect women’s health, and that they care about women and children, then they should also support other reproductive healthcare-related proposals that have the same goal in mind. If the premise of restrictive abortion laws is really about informing and protecting women, then laws must be developed to ensure that all women who get pregnant and plan to give birth are aware of the risks involved. All medical practices that have pregnant women as patients must arrange for structural modifications to their facilities to ensure women and the government that they can properly respond to medical emergencies that might arise. The medical providers of pregnant women must also be required to make specific, politically dictated statements about the range of risks involved in pregnancy and childbirth although, unlike the “abortion information,” statements can be based on empirical data and medical facts.

acogResearch by Elizabeth G. Raymond, MD, MPH and David A. Grimes, MD and published in the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecology’s Obstetrics & Gynecology (February 2012), concluded, “Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion. Similarly, the overall morbidity associated with childbirth exceeds that with abortion.”  (Full PDF article available at no charge through embedded link.) While I am not interested in shattering the joy of women learning of a wanted positive pregnancy test, fair is fair. There are risks associated with pregnancy and childbearing for which women should receive appropriate medical information. Given the political and religious propaganda out there, the chances are that a lot of women think that pregnancy and childbirth are safe. If women cannot be respected as able to independently make decisions about abortion, how can we possibly believe them able to make decisions concerning pregnancy and childbirth?

In addition to pregnancy and childbearing putting women at a higher risk of death than abortion, there are numerous risk factors that require medical attention and monitoring, including prior to conception. Rh incompatibility, kidney disease, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and autoimmune diseases are among the many conditions that can dramatically complicate the health of pregnant women and their babies. Age and lifestyle are other factors that obstetricians must consider during preconception consultations and prenatal treatment practices. The latest blow to pregnant women and fetal wellbeing is research concerning the influence of the time interval between the delivery of the first baby and conception of the second.  “[A]n interval of less than 12 months causes an increased risk for severe preterm birth in women who already suffered preterm birth in their first pregnancy” was the primary finding of the research, which will be presented this week at the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting.

Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for women in developed countries. According to research published in Science Daily (July 2010), “The heavier the woman, the higher the risk of induced preterm birth before 37 weeks, with very obese women at 70% greater risk than normal weight women.  Overweight or obese women also had a higher risk of early preterm birth (before 32 or 33 weeks). Again, the heavier the woman, the higher the risk of early preterm birth, with very obese women at 82% greater risk than normal weight women.”

CDC pregnancy-related-death-2010_600pxAll proposed Pregnancy and Childbearing Risk Awareness legislation should reach far to include all possible complications – just as restrictive abortion legislation underscores improbable complications such as a perforated uterus or death. For example, maternal mortality is on the rise in the United States, with roughly 18 out of 100,000 women dying from pregnancy-related complications in 2013; between 1998 and 2005, the figure was much lower, with roughly eight deaths per 100,000 pregnant women. In 2011, the Center for Disease Control reported 17.8 deaths per
100,000 pregnant women, noting also significant racial disparities with a rate of 12.5 per 100,000 white women and 42.8 per 100.000 black women. The death rate from abortion is one for every one million abortions performed at eight weeks or less, one for every 29,000 abortions performed at 16 to 20 weeks gestation, and one for every 11,000 abortions performed at 21 weeks or later. Obviously, far more women die due to pregnancy-related complications than abortion complications, even at the later stages of gestation. It is only appropriate to ensure that women have the correct information so that they can decide if they really want to be pregnant and if motherhood is actually worth such possible health concerns.

Those of us who believe that reproductive justice is critical to achieving social and economic equality for women know that women can and do think for themselves in every sphere of life and most especially their reproductive lives. We also make many household and relationship decisions, not to mention educational and career decisions. We do not need politicians, pastors, or “sidewalk counselors” to help us make informed, personal decisions nor do we need them to create laws to try to impose their views on us. If they feel they must be a part of our reproductive lives, they should go about it fairly and provide complete and accurate information on abortion and pregnancy.

GOP out of bedroomA US News and World Report article (12/31/14), What the Battle Over Abortion Will Look Like in 2015, should remind all of us concerned about reproductive justice that Republicans will control the Senate and the House of Representatives beginning this month. As much as Republicans claim to favor small and less government, we all know that when it comes to issues relative to human sexuality, they espouse as much government intrusion and regulation as possible. Although many Republicans are pro-choice, the party continues to allow its extreme right wing and Tea Party darlings to steer the votes and priorities. Reproductive decisions, sexual orientation, and even personal sexual activity preferences are of greater concern to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and friends than ensuring that every child has food to eat, that people are working and earning a fair wage, or that the U.S. government is protecting business from cyber-attacks, and so on. It makes no sense, but it is a reality.  It is reasonable to expect more attacks on reproductive rights in 2015.

Rick BrattinThe Republicans are on a roll. Just last month Missouri Republican Rick Brattin reintroduced a bill to require women seeking abortion to get permission from the father of the zygote/embryo/fetus.  According to Mother Jones, Brattin’s bill would exempt “legitimate rape” victims. For a pregnancy resulting from rape to be exempted and the claim of rape “legitimate,” a police report must have been filed immediately after the rape. Oh yes, the Republicans are on a roll, seemingly even including distinctions about rape – Todd Akin style. Always claiming that the legislation is to “protect women,” these mostly male representatives apparently believe they know more about what is best for women’s health than, well, legitimate women.

Thomas State legis LoCPro-choice Americans have got to step up to the plate in 2015.  They must resolve to at least let their elected
representatives know their views. As fellow blogger and former lobbyist Pat Richards can confirm, it is very easy to contact members of Congress.  One website that provides direct contact information of each congressional member is https://www.congress.gov/members. For state and local legislative representatives, The Library of Congress Thomas website provides links to each state legislature. Pro-choice people need to take a page from the playbook of the zealously anti-choice organizations like violence-promoting Operation Rescue and the various evangelical groups that pressure church members to attend sessions to write emails and make phone calls en masse. It can make a difference in the extent to which a member of Congress maintains interest in sponsoring or defending restrictive anti-abortion or other family planning legislation.

During my years directing a clinic, countless state and federal legislators shared with me that the primary reason they hesitated to have a stronger public pro-choice position was because they seldom heard from their pro-choice constituents, but they constantly heard from the anti-abortion groups. That needs to finally change – there is too much to lose if it does not.  While NARAL and Planned Parenthood supporters often initiate outreach activities, they simply cannot compete with the church-sanctioned and sponsored groups in terms of numbers. It is also worth noting that politicians actually like to hear the views of individuals speaking from the heart instead of an organized script.

minds changeAs much as we may see reproductive rights as an issue in which people do not change their positions, there are studies that illustrate that people do change their minds about polarizing issues such as abortion and gay rights. Minds change through personal experience or learning about the firsthand experience of someone they know, love, or in some way care for. Minds can change when we interact with others with whom we share general values and recognize that on polarizing issues with which we disagree, things are not so black and white, all or none propositions. No one should be fooled into believing that when minds change about abortion it is only to the anti-choice position. National Right to Life has done some great messaging in that regard. In fact, pro-choice groups could do the same.

Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera/Photo from Trust.org

In 2015 we can probably expect to see more legislation proposed to ban abortion as early as 12 weeks, more verbatim scripting for medical professionals to impose on patients regardless if true, and more unnecessary and invasive ultrasound or other testing. Before you know it, every woman who miscarries will be subjected to a law enforcement report and inquiry. Think that sounds extreme? Just take a few minutes to learn about Maria Teresa Rivera in El Salvador where all abortion is banned. She did not even know she was pregnant when she miscarried, but the judge did not believe her and sentenced Rivera to 40 years in prison for aggravated murder. Each and every anti-abortion bill proposed in the U.S. under the guise of women’s health is another step towards a total ban.

Time is of the essence for reproductive justice. When and whether to have children is a personal choice. Abortion is a personal choice in which women do not benefit from, and can be harmed by, governmental interference. Medical professionals do not need the input of politicians in the private relationships they have with patients. Please, be it resolved that you will share your pro-choice position and dedication to reproductive justice with your elected representatives beginning this first month of 2015.