Rhode Island Democrats might finally have the votes to get the Reproductive Health Care Act to the governor’s desk in 2019.

Rhode Island has a powerful anti-choice lobby, and anti-choice Democrats who have routinely blocked the bill in recent years.
The Womxn Project

A new pro-choice legislative majority and a governor committed to signing abortion protections into state law has many in Rhode Island hopeful about finally passing the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) this year.

Longtime state Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence) said 38 of 75 state house members have committed to voting for the RHCA, which would enshrine abortion rights in state law. She said “a number of other representatives tell me they will vote for the bill when it comes to the floor.”

“I’ve never been more optimistic,” Ajello told Rewire.News.

Rallying legislative support for the pro-choice measure in the most Catholic state in the United States has been difficult. Rhode Island has a powerful anti-choice lobby, and anti-choice Democrats have blocked the bill in recent years. Rhode Island scored an “F” grade from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2016 for its “severely restricted access” to reproductive rights.

The 2018 midterms changed the balance, adding more women and pro-choice legislators in the Rhode Island General Assembly than ever before. This includes newly elected state Reps. Karen Alzate (D-Pawtucket), Terri Cortvriend (D-Portsmouth), Justine Caldwell (D-East Greenwich), and Mario Mendez (D-Johnston, Providence) who replaced incumbents opposed to the RHCA and are not co-sponsoring the bill, Ajello said. There are four new Rhode Island state senators who back the RHCA who replaced opponents of the bill.

In the state senate, the bill has 17 sponsors—five more than 2018—so there is “huge momentum,” said sponsor state Sen. Gayle Goldin (D-Providence) who expects to secure more support. The bill would need 19 votes to pass the state senate.

Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), who will deliver her State of the State address Tuesday night, is advocating for the RHCA and is “fully committed to enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law,” spokesperson Josh Block confirmed Monday.

Raimondo has not been as vocal a pro-choice ally in past years.

“This is a great indicator of the governor really serving as a voice for the 71 percent of Rhode Islanders who want to see this bill pass,” Goldin said.

Legislators expect to introduce the new bills next Tuesday, on the 46th anniversary of the landmark Roe decision. Advocates have ramped up efforts pushing for the RHCA.

“The Reproductive Health Care Act is not about politics: it’s about our health and our ability to control our own futures. The governor has been a leader in working to close gaps in access to reproductive healthcare. The passage of this bill would continue that important and powerful legacy by making sure that we are a state where we protect the right to access safe, legal abortion care,” Jordan Hevenor, co-director of The Womxn Project, said in a statement.

“The sheer number of people active on the issue this session can’t be denied,” Hilary Levey Friedman, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW), told Rewire.News. “In a state where the legislature has refused to act to maintain the law of the land, it’s imperative that we have a governor who is willing to do so. Governor Raimondo understands that it’s not up to a lawmaker to tell a woman when she must become a parent.”

Advocates said the governor’s backing should be a clear signal to anti-choice Democratic leaders like the Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston) and the Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who have held up the RHCA. Neither responded to Rewire.News emails for comment.

But Ajello is hopeful Mattiello may bring the bill to a floor vote for the first time given his recent comments about the public support for abortion rights protections. “I think that’s in recognition of poll results showing such a strong support and a strong feeling of the need to do this,” she said.

As the anti-choice Trump administration and a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court continue to threaten reproductive rights, there are many voices advocating for the RHCA this session.

“The reason this can happen in 2019 is legislators have finally seen with the Kavanaugh appointment that reproductive rights truly are at risk and there is a significant potential for our rights to be diminished if not eliminated and they have heard very strongly from their constituents that that’s not acceptable,” Goldin said. “I’m really happy to see that we are finally at a time where reproductive rights are being taken seriously in the … legislature and we are joined with enough colleagues to make this a reality for women in our state.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2019/01/15/elections-matter-rhode-island-legislators-primed-to-safeguard-abortion-rights/

A federal judge on Sunday blocked Trump administration rules that would allow most businesses to opt out of covering contraception for their employees if they have moral or religious objections.

Judge Haywood Gilliam blocked the rules, which were set to go into effect on Monday, in California, Washington, D.C., and 12 other states. Gilliam granted a request for a preliminary injunction from those states, but limited the ban’s scope to only the case’s plaintiffs.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) at the end of December asked Gilliam to block the rules, which would allow more exemptions to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate.

Attorneys general in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and the District of Columbia joined Becerra’s request for an injunction.

“The law couldn’t be more clear — employers have no business interfering in women’s healthcare decisions,” Becerra said in a statement on Sunday. “Today’s court ruling stops another attempt by the Trump Administration to trample on women’s access to basic reproductive care.”

“It’s 2019, yet the Trump Administration is still trying to roll back women’s rights,” Becerra added. “Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive healthcare they are guaranteed under the law.”

The administration issued draft rules that took effect immediately last year, but they have been blocked by several courts.

Gilliam on Friday said a “substantial number” of women would lose birth control coverage under the Trump administration rules.

“It is a good day when a court stops this administration from sanctioning discrimination under the guise of religion or morality,” Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s rules authorized employers and universities to strip women of birth control coverage — a benefit guaranteed to them by law, and meant to advance their health and equality. We applaud the order to enjoin the enforcement of these discriminatory rules.”

Source: https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/425136-judge-blocks-trump-contraception-rule-in-13-states

A fake website has been set up to mimic the H.S.E website that provides information for people seeking abortion services. 

Repeal campaigner Tanya Cody called the helpline number on the fake website to find out what information was being given to callers.

“I told him I was looking for info on where I could get an abortion in my area and he said that looking for information on abortion is still illegal as Simon Harris has not abolished the family planning act 1979. He then said I need to get a solicitor immediately as I’m breaking the law by calling him. He was extremely rude through out the call.”

The man she spoke to repeatedly asked her for her name and queried how far along her pregnancy was.

Tanya explained:

“I asked him was I through to the right number and he kept avoiding the question.”

View image on Twitter

On the third day of limited abortion services being available, anti-choice campaigners stood outside a health clinic in Galway protesting abortion services. The same thing happened in Louth a few days later.

Senior Law Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, Máiréad Enright, said that these efforts to hinder abortion access could have been avoided.

“The Minister recognises the need for exclusion zones, and must know that other jurisdictions have successfully legislated on this issue.”

Máiréad and her colleagues at Lawyers For Choice published a position paper in July 2018 noting the key flaws in the draft legislation that Minister Simon Harris put forward.

View image on Twitter
Day 3, January 2019 and the ‘pro-life’ groups are already outside clinics intimidating & harassing women.

Máiréad says they were concerned about the legislation when it was first published,

“We assumed that it was draft legislation only, and the Minister would be open to changes once the legislation was actually debated in the Oireachtas.

“Although we did not expect that the basic grounds (twelve weeks, risk to life, risk of serious harm to health and FFA) would be open to change, we did think that some of the secondary provisions which do not comply with international human rights law or medical best practice e.g. the three day mandatory waiting period would be open to re-negotiation.”

Lawyers For Choice members researched best practice legislation elsewhere in the world and the group drafted model legislation, “which complies with best medical practice and reflects the highest standards imposed by international human rights law.”

“We hoped that the overwhelming mandate provided by the Yes vote would strengthen arguments for more accessible legislation. Simon Harris, however, argued that the Yes vote in May was effectively a vote for the draft legislation published in March and so no significant pro-choice amendments to the legislation could be accepted.”

Lawyers For Choice proposed legislation that included fines or imprisonment for anyone publishing, distributing, displaying or broadcasting material, “likely to mislead or deceive a person who is accessing or attempting to access an abortion.”

Their proposed legislation also included 100-metre safe zones, with fines or imprisonment for anyone engaging in intimidation, threatening or recording of people attempting to access premises where abortions are provided.

There are other key areas where Lawyers For Choice say they believe the legislation could cause future problems,

“The mandatory waiting period should be scrapped or, it should be possible to waive it in cases where observing the waiting period would block the woman from accessing abortion care.”

“Abortion should be completely decriminalised, or failing that, any offences should be very narrow and targeted at practices which harm women. Although doctors have a clear defence where they are acting in good faith, criminalisation leaves them vulnerable to ‘stings’ and threats.”

Máiréad says that this “chilling effect” is already inhibiting access to abortion, with the Rotunda recently announcing that they will only provide abortions between nine and eleven weeks, rather than between nine and twelve weeks as permitted by law.

“Criminalisation is also likely having an effect on the number of GPs willing to offer terminations so that some counties have very limited or no abortion services at the current time.”

During the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment women with wanted pregnancies spoke to the media about how the 8th impacted on their capacity to refuse consent while pregnant.

Now that the 8th has been removed, Máiréad says attention needs to be paid to the wider impact of removing the 8th Amendment from the Constitution.

The law lecturer cites the National Consent Policy, “which restricts pregnant people’s right to refuse medical treatment where doing so is perceived to place the foetus’ life at risk”, saying it, “has not yet been altered to clarify the scope of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy in pregnancy.”

According to Máiréad, the current law leaves too many people behind.

“It makes no provision for women who receive a diagnosis of severe foetal anomaly, or who need to terminate a pregnancy after 12 weeks for serious socio-economic reasons.”

“The combination of a strict 12-week deadline, a mandatory three-day waiting period and scarcity of service providers outside the major cities will inevitably mean that some women are refused care and will need to travel or terminate pregnancies illegally.”

Source: https://www.her.ie/news/law-lecturer-says-that-new-abortion-legislation-leaves-too-many-women-behind-444015?fbclid=IwAR1IsVSjyCQAtBm245ISt2HFGbrGS1lvi7eXh7y-PStl6ZgSgOlKA-kgJak

”This is certainly the most blatant attempt to take aim at Roe vs. Wade,” a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

FRANKFORT, Ky.— Already mired in three lawsuits over abortion restrictions, Kentucky lawmakers are ratcheting up the stakes with a new bill to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

As a new legislative session opens, the measure appeared to be on a fast track in the Republican-dominated state Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union, the state’s adversary in the ongoing courthouse fights, warns the heartbeat bill would prohibit most abortions in Kentucky and would immediately trigger a legal challenge.

“It’s blatantly unconstitutional,” ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri said Wednesday, a day after the measure was introduced by lawmakers. “This is certainly the most blatant attempt to take aim at Roe vs. Wade. It’s extreme. It’s yet again anti-abortion politicians trying to push abortion out of reach for women in this state.”

Kentucky’s bill is at odds with the legal standard set by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which prohibits states from banning abortions before viability. But the Kentucky proposal is among a series of measures introduced by abortion opponents who hope the Supreme Court will be more receptive to limiting abortion rights now that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a key vote to preserve abortion rights, has retired.

Kennedy was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Though Kavanaugh’s record on abortion is limited, he did vote as a federal appeals court judge in 2017 in favor of delaying an abortion for a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody.

Meg Stern, left, and other escort volunteers line up outside the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky, July 17, 2017.Dylan Lovan / AP file

In Iowa, a heartbeat law was temporarily blocked while a judge weighs whether it is unconstitutional. North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law was struck down as unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the lower court rulings.

The effort to prohibit abortions in Kentucky once a fetal heartbeat is detected — which is around six weeks of pregnancy — would further cement Kentucky’s reputation as “one of the most hostile states” to abortion rights in the country, Amiri said by phone.

The ACLU attorney added that the “vast majority” of abortions occur after six weeks of pregnancy and called a six-week ban unconstitutional under more than 40 years of precedent.

“Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks,” she said. “So this is a virtual ban on abortion.”

The heartbeat bill was introduced Tuesday, opening day of Kentucky’s new session, and one of the many sponsors expected it to be heard in committee on Thursday. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said he hopes the bill would get a Senate vote this week. It would still have to pass the GOP-led House before it would go to the state’s anti-abortion governor, Republican Matt Bevin.

After Friday, lawmakers head home for a break before reconvening in early February for the rest of the year’s session.

If it reaches the governor’s desk, the heartbeat bill would give Bevin an opportunity to attach his name to a measure imposing stricter limits on abortions — a popular stance with his socially conservative base. Bevin, who has said he’ll seek re-election this year, saw his approval ratings drop after he criticized public workers who opposed his efforts to change the state’s struggling public pension plans. Kentucky and two other states — Louisiana and Mississippi — will elect governors in 2019.

Embry said the state’s legal setbacks in the other abortion cases would not deter Kentucky lawmakers from pushing ahead with an even more restrictive measure.

“We’re still going right ahead with what we think is the right thing to do,” he said.

Thayer said the threat of another ACLU lawsuit also wouldn’t hold up the bill in the Senate: “It’s our job to make laws, to make policy, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have aggressively pushed bills to restrict the procedure since consolidating their hold on the legislature starting in 2017, even though two abortion-related laws have been struck down in the courts. Bevin’s administration has appealed in both cases.

One of those laws, enacted in early 2017, had required doctors to perform ultrasounds and show and describe the ultrasound images to pregnant women, who could avert their eyes.

Another legal challenge arose over Bevin’s interpretation of another law — passed about two decades ago — that required a Kentucky abortion clinic to have written agreements with a hospital and ambulance service in case of medical emergencies. Bevin’s administration actions had threatened the state’s last abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

In a third case, lawyers for Bevin’s administration and the ACLU argued over a lawsuit challenging a state law aimed at a common second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. The law remains suspended pending a ruling by a federal judge.

Associated Press writers Adam Beam in Frankfort and Mark Sherman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-abortion-related-fight-kentucky-heats-over-fetal-heartbeats-n956966?fbclid=IwAR0ct28M8XUlap29Tdj7S6mzs56eDt20vrLYamG3a19bGhHih06UXjuMuV8

Ireland voted to liberalize abortion laws. The far-right government in Warsaw is moving in the opposite direction.

People attend the anti-government, pro-abortion demonstration in front of parliament, on April 9, 2016 in Warsaw. / AFP / AFP PHOTO / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Everyone knows someone who has had an abortion in Poland. But most of it happens underground.

Under Poland’s draconian abortion law—one of the strictest in the European Union—terminations are permitted only if there is a threat to the mother’s life, if there is a fetal abnormality, or when pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest. 

Under Poland’s draconian abortion law—one of the strictest in the European Union—terminations are permitted only if there is a threat to the mother’s life, if there is a fetal abnormality, or when pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest.

Even when it is permitted, few doctors are willing to perform the procedure, forcing women to seek abortion on the black market, where they risk their health and sometimes their lives.

In Europe, only Northern Ireland and Malta have stricter laws, where abortion is banned in most circumstances. Until recently, the Republic of Ireland was part of this group. However, in a momentous referendum last May, the republic voted to lift the ban, joining the list of more than 30 countries that have liberalized abortion laws since 1994. Poland seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

The trend is extremely disturbing given the crucial role that access to abortion plays in protecting women’s lives and health. More than 30,000 women still die from botched abortions each year worldwide. And restrictions on abortion only increase the number of women who seek illegal and unsafe methods. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, abortion rates in countries where it is broadly legal and where it is highly restrictive are similar—34 abortions take place for every 1,000 women in countries where it is not restricted, and 37 per 1,000 where it is illegal.

Officially, just 1,055 women obtained a legal abortion in Poland in 2016, while illegal abortions numbered up to 150,000, according to Krystyna Kacpura, the executive director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning (FEDERA). It’s not known how many women are injured or die as a result of unsafe, illegal abortions. In Ireland, just 25 legal abortions were carried out in 2016, while 3,265 women traveled from Ireland to the U.K. for a termination that year. And in March 2018, the Guttmacher Institute found that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean—where there is a total ban or severe restrictions on abortion—have the highest annual rate of abortion in the world: for every 1,000 women in the region of reproductive age, 44 have had abortions.

In 1989, after the collapse of communism, the new government sought to impose an outright ban on abortion, which had been legal in Poland since 1956—a move widely seen as a payoff to the Roman Catholic Church for its integral role in nurturing the rise of the opposition. Widespread protests against the ban led to the creation of the restrictive 1993 “compromise bill” that is in place today. However, surveys showed about 60 percent of Poles opposed the bill. “Women had no say in the decision. The church and politicians decided for us, and they are still deciding for us today,” said Kacpura.

The church has long held enormous influence in Poland, where about 86 percentof the population identifies as Roman Catholic. Once repressed under the old regime, the church was by its very existence a constant, powerful rebel against communism as bishops regularly criticized government policies. By the late 1980s, it was considered the primary vehicle for anti-communist activism under the Solidarity movement—the hugely popular trade union movement that succeeded in overthrowing the communist leadership in 1989.

Since the end of communism, the church and government have been inseparable. “Politicians know that to be successful they need the support of the church,” Kacpura said. In 2015, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, strongly aligned with the church, won an outright majority in Parliament, giving rise to an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere that embraced anti-abortion rhetoric.

In 2015, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, strongly aligned with the church, won an outright majority in Parliament, giving rise to an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere that embraced anti-abortion rhetoric.

In March 2016, lawmakers tried to impose a full ban on abortion, which threatened to imprison women seeking abortions and doctors who performed the procedure for up to five years. Even “suspicious” miscarriages could be investigated.

People were furious. Thousands of men and women took to the streets across Poland in the “Black Protests”—one of the largest demonstrations in the history of the country—forcing the government to abandon its plans. Now, it is trying again. The current Polish Parliament is working on the “stop abortion” bill, authored by staunch conservative groups, that would outlaw abortion for the most common reason: fetal malformation. Yet, as many 75 percent of Poles oppose further restrictions on the existing law, according to a March 2018 survey by Kantar Millward Brown. Another survey found that 69 percent of Poles support the right to terminate a pregnancy before 12 weeks.

Although protests halted the legislative process last spring, Marta Kotwas, a Polish doctoral researcher at University College London and a women’s rights activist, argues that with a PiS victory in this year’s parliamentary elections, it’s likely this law will be passed.

What’s more, under the PiS-led government, access to the morning-after pill—or as it has been rebranded, “the early abortion pill”—has also been restricted with the introduction in July 2017 requirement for a prescription for emergency contraception. A great concern among women’s rights activists is that the strong anti-abortion propaganda and the fact that women have now grown up without access to abortion are conditioning the younger generation not to talk.

“When I’m out on the street collecting signatures for liberalized abortion laws, I get more support from women in their 50s who remember when they had this right. But women in their 20s and 30s say nothing,” said Iza Desperak, a sociology teacher at the University of Lodz.

The church, anti-abortion groups, and government have transformed abortion into a deeply moral issue that has polarized the population.

The church, anti-abortion groups, and government have transformed abortion into a deeply moral issue that has polarized the population.

In the western city of Poznan, for example, anti-abortion campaigners have displayed graphic posters of fetuses alongside images of Adolf Hitler, with text comparing abortion to genocide.

Anti-abortion ideas are amplified by PiS Chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has called the latest abortion bill the new “pro-life law” that will stop abortions of those with Down syndrome, which, he claims, are the majority of abortion cases. Academics and rights activists say there is no evidence to support this.

These messages are shocking for women who grew up under communism. Kacpura remembers when abortion was just a procedure and noncontroversial. “You could have it done on a Friday and be back in church on a Sunday,” she said. Stigmatization of abortion and sex has been compounded by the church’s hijacking of sex education, reinforced by PiS politicians who claim it would lead to “unnecessary sex promotion” and “sexual degeneration.” Instead, children are given “Preparation for Family Life” classes, delivered by the school’s religious teacher, who is approved by the local church.

Growing up in 1990s Lodz, one women’s rights activist said, “The general message was the family is of supreme value. There was no talk about the permissibility of abortion, contraceptives, and consent. The point was to make girls believe that sex can only happen only within a Catholic marriage.”

Under PiS the message has only intensified. Last year new textbooks were introduced that present embryos as “unborn children” and contraception as “dangerous” for a person’s health.

Last year new textbooks were introduced that present embryos as “unborn children” and contraception as “dangerous” for a person’s health.

Teachers have complained to the government about the lack of practical information on access to contraception and abortion. “It’s not an education, it’s misinformation,” Desperak said.

Abortion is already banned in some regions thanks to the “clause of conscience,” which gives doctors the right to refuse an abortion on faith grounds. Although they are obligated to refer a woman to another doctor, it rarely happens, according to Kacpura.

In the eastern region of Podkarpackie, more than 3,000 doctors signed the clause in a PiS-led initiative to make the area anti-abortion, inspired by the Italian region of Verona. A local PiS politician, Jacek Kotula, said the party aimed to send a signal that “homosexuality, gender ideology, abortion, and in vitro fertilization are all unwelcome here.” The same policy “exists unofficially in most Polish hospitals,” Kotwas said. Only 10 percent of hospitals agree to carry out abortions, according to FEDERA.

A Warsaw doctor, Bogdan Chazan, caused an uproar in June 2014 after he refused to perform an abortion of a severely deformed fetus on faith grounds. He failed to tell the mother the abortion would be illegal after 12 weeks, nor where else she could get the procedure. The baby, carried to term, was born with no skull and died nine days later.

A Warsaw doctor, Bogdan Chazan, caused an uproar in June 2014 after he refused to perform an abortion of a severely deformed fetus on faith grounds. He failed to tell the mother the abortion would be illegal after 12 weeks, nor where else she could get the procedure. The baby, carried to term, was born with no skull and died nine days later.

Kacpura said there are many such stories, but these seldom reach the media, as women are often too traumatized to speak out. Patricia Mitro, a Polish lawyer specializing in family affairs, told the Dzien Dobry TVNprogram she has seen a huge increase in the number of women in Podkarpackie reporting that doctors failed to tell them their baby would be deformed.

The situation is just what the PiS chairman, Kaczynski, could have hoped for when, in October 2016, he said: “We will strive to ensure that even pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, is severely deformed, end with the mother giving birth so the child can be baptized, buried, and have a name.”

No one in government has discussed severe conditions where the maximum survival time is a few days or weeks at a cost of enormous suffering to the child and the mother. It’s no wonder that women—particularly those from smaller villages—travel to different regions to see a gynecologist, afraid local doctors will conceal information.

Many women have found a way to safely abort at home, such as Mary from Gdansk, now 28, who ordered pills online using the website of Women on Waves—a Dutch nongovernmental organization that gives advice on accessing abortion in countries where it is forbidden.

Mary was 19 and about to start university when she found out she was pregnant. “I knew immediately I didn’t want a baby. It wasn’t the right time.” The site explains how to get hold of medicines like Arthrotec from pharmacies without needing a doctor’s prescription. Arthrotec, prescribed to reduce arthritic pain, can be used to induce an abortion safely up to nine weeks of pregnancy. “Say it’s for your grandmother’s arthritis,” the site writes. That’s exactly what she did.

Mary took the pills in a relative’s empty house with her boyfriend. Feeling more pain than expected, she called a Women on Waves representative. “I remember being relieved when I heard she had kids around her. It made me realize I wasn’t a monster who hated children,” said Mary, now the mother of two children.

Women who have passed the cutoff for taking the pill can turn to a Polish doctor willing to carry out the abortion illegally, typically paying around 4,000 zloty, or just over $1,000, but it can be as much a 9,000 zloty (about $2,400). The cost is steep considering Poland’s average monthly wage is about $1,250. The University of Warsaw researcher Agata Chelstowska estimated in 2011 that the illegal abortion industry generates $95 million a year.

More and more women are choosing to go to clinics abroad in Slovakia or Germany.

More and more women are choosing to go to clinics abroad in Slovakia or Germany.

This way, women can also spare themselves the shame they are likely to face in a Polish hospital. “You cannot imagine the humiliation,” Desperak said. One such foreign organization is Ciocia Basia, a Berlin-based Polish-speaking volunteer group created four years ago in response to the growing numbers of women traveling to Germany for safe abortions. The group translates documents, organizes travel and accommodation, and subsidizes costs if women cannot afford the procedure, which costs approximately 400 euros (about $450) in Berlin. “We never turn people down for lack of money. We let them stay on our couches for free,” a group member said.

Mary has never told her friends and family about her abortion. “I’m scared of the discussion. If you have an abortion, you’re a bad person. Everyone has an opinion on it. It’s really black and white.” The scale of the Black Protests signified a turning point in uniting women on the issue, and there’s no doubt that opposition to further restricting abortion is strong. So far, protesters have managed to stop a bad situation from getting worse. But much greater work is needed to challenge the abortion laws that were never democratically implemented and to counter the government’s latest efforts.

The United Nations and the Council of Europe have denounced Poland’s “retrogressive” restrictions on reproductive rights. But without consensus among their member states, these bodies have no enforcement powers. In reality, the Polish government has the ability to roll back women’s rights, and it’s down to civil society to push back. That will require more women demanding the same rights that Irish women and their European counterparts have claimed.

Source: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/08/poland-is-trying-to-make-abortion-dangerous-illegal-and-impossible/?fbclid=IwAR3uwRAQEor5AT638NSAE0KH_hSxlJsF_q9APL8p8TIddYiFiYfBsP_UOPw

I wanted to provide abortions for my patients. My med school wouldn’t teach me how.

Illustration by Marina Muun for The Washington Post

Outlook Perspective – Stephanie Ho is the director of primary care for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Last year brought one of the toughest moments I’d ever faced as a family doctor. A woman had shown up for her appointment after a three-hour drive to one of our clinics in Arkansas, and we had to turn her away. A state restriction had gone into effect, requiring that abortion providers contract with a physician who has hospital-admitting privileges. It works by weaponizing antiabortion attitudes within the medical community.

My staff and I had been attempting to comply with the law since it was passed in 2015. We reached out to every OB/GYN we could find. Receptionists would hang up on us or refuse to take a message. The doctors who did answer said that while they might personally support a woman’s right to choose, their colleagues did not. One told me that for him to sign on as a backup, he’d need permission not only from his hospital administrator but also from the Diocese of Little Rock — “and after that,” he added, “the pope.” We finally found a willing obstetrician in November.

This fear doesn’t surprise me. Medication abortion is one of the safest procedures out there; it’s less risky than wisdom-tooth extraction (which requires anesthesia). But doctors and nurses in Arkansas are so afraid of abortions — and the attendant politics — that it’s almost impossible to learn about them as a medical student, let alone administer them. Where I grew up, in the River Valley of western Arkansas, nobody said the word “abortion” out loud. When I went to medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, that censorious silence didn’t relent. Over four years, the most exposure we got to the topic was a half-hour guest lecture. (At that time, 17 percent
of medical schools offered no formal abortion education, according to a national survey published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.)

That implicit disapproval carried over to my residency in family medicine, which I began in 2008 at UAMS West in Fort Smith. Second-year residents gave presentations on a topic of their choice — and mine, on abortion, was the most highly attended and contentious that year. A senior faculty member vocally disagreed with my description of abortion as a common medical service, interrupting every few sentences and quoting the Bible at me. Someone dubbed me the “abortion chick,” and the nickname stuck. Whenever a patient at the clinic wanted to learn more about terminating a pregnancy, the staff would call me in to talk her through her options, even when I wasn’t scheduled on a shift. My fellow physicians didn’t feel comfortable sharing information about abortions.

Third-year residents could pursue an elective rotation, and I was determined to learn how to perform an abortion. Because I was not aware of any local providers, I enrolled in a program at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in Denver. The residency director said it was not an appropriate elective for a family medicine resident, and that he would have to talk about it with the other faculty physicians at Fort Smith. Then he said that the program didn’t permit residents to rotate out of state. I responded by citing the portion of the resident handbook that said we could travel for hard-to-find specialties — and pointed out that another trainee had done so the previous year in a different subspecialty. (Reached by an editor at the Post, a UAMS spokesman declined to comment, saying that the residency program has since changed directors. The medical center did not return phone requests for comment.)

Then came the end of my residency. It was commonly known among residents that if you applied to work at our training medical center and had done a decent job, you were essentially a shoo-in. In my first interview, I was forthcoming about intending to provide abortions at some point in my career. I was not offered a second interview. I decided not to attend our graduation ceremony.

The only other hospital in the area was a Catholic institution, and I doubted that it would even consider hiring me. But I didn’t want to leave: My house, family and patients were all in Fort Smith. My only option was to open my own practice, a highly unusual path for a newly minted doctor. So I took out loans and, in 2011, bought equipment from an out-of-state doctor closing her practice. Unlike most other providers, I did not cap how many Medicaid patients I saw. I lived paycheck to paycheck, paying my bills late and pouring every extra minute and dollar I had into keeping the practice afloat. When I told my malpractice insurance company, SVMIC, that I wanted to provide the occasional medication abortion, it tripled my monthly premium from about $600 to $1,800, claiming that it didn’t normally insure doctors who offer that service. (SVMIC also declined to comment for this piece, telling a Post editor, “We do not discuss our confidential insurance relationships.”)

Although I could provide medication abortions, I didn’t want to advertise the service and subject my staff to the scrutiny and harassment that would follow. So none of my patients asked me for an abortion. I started providing medication abortions only after Planned Parenthood’s Fayetteville clinic asked me to fill in for a doctor there who’d fallen ill — first twice a month, then every week, then twice weekly.

At some point during my residency, a faculty member pulled me aside to ask, “Why do you even want to do this?” Then and now, my answer is: If I can, and I’m willing, then why wouldn’t I? I was more hesitant about going public as an abortion provider. But as politicians continued to pile on restrictions, I saw how that affected my patients — and other doctors — and I realized that I couldn’t do my work and keep quiet. It didn’t feel right that my silence might hinder access to care by perpetuating the sense of shame around the procedure. Today, I am one of four physicians regularly providing abortions in Arkansas, which is home to 1.5 million women. Who else is going to speak up for them?

In January 2016, the organizers of a reproductive-justice rally in Little Rock asked if I would speak, and I accepted. Before I did, I let my father know: He’s an immigrant from Taiwan, always aware of how his children’s actions reflect on him. To my surprise, he was completely fine with it. Some people need abortions, he said simply. It made sense to him that, as a doctor, I would help meet that need.

Not everyone was so supportive. After finding out about the rally, one local family wrote to me saying that, although I had provided them with excellent care, as Catholics (and as donors to a local crisis pregnancy center), they could no longer come to my practice in good conscience.

Yet the exodus of patients that I feared never came. After that, I was no longer afraid to say I provided abortions. I eventually closed my practice — ultimately, I couldn’t make the finances work — and took a full-time position at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, where medication abortion was just one of many primary-care offerings, along with family planning, HIV care and transgender services.

Even so, the abortion work is hampered by a raft of medically unnecessary and insulting restrictions. Planned Parenthood clinics here currently can’t provide surgical abortions, because Arkansas requires that our facilities be outfitted comparably to a hospital surgical center. I’m legally required to hand out pamphlets filled with falsehoods about how the mifepristone pill, which ends a pregnancy, can be “reversed.” My patients sit through 48-hour waiting periods and mandatory follow-up visits, which impose costs — gas money, time off from work, overnight stays, child care — that many can barely afford. The contracted-physician requirement was only the latest imposition; the state legislature will consider passing two more bills restricting abortions when it reconvenes this month.

Reproductive rights depend, in part, on the medical community dispelling taboos. Abortion should be a topic of normal conversation, especially among medical professionals. It is, after all, a part of ordinary life — a routine medical procedure. When I first hosted a lunch for Arkansas medical students called “Meet the Provider” in 2017, I expected only a handful to attend. Instead, some 30 people came, and next time, we expect more.

The path to becoming an abortion provider can be extraordinarily frustrating in states like Arkansas, but younger doctors seem to be much more aware of inequity, stigma and other barriers to medical services. I’m hopeful that their sense of openness will ultimately mean better access for patients.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2019/01/04/feature/i-wanted-to-provide-abortions-for-my-patients-my-med-school-wouldnt-teach-me-how/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.640073ee65f7

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, STF / Associated Press

Abortion restrictions in Texas faced a renewed challenge on Monday in federal court, as abortion rights groups argued in court that more than two dozen of the state’s laws and restrictions are unconstitutional.

The hearing came on the eve of the Texas Legislative session, where lawmakers have proposed still more of the sort of restrictions that have led to a series of lawsuits pitting the abortion rights activists against the Texas attorney general’s office.

Monday, the abortion rights groups in federal court were targeting laws that require a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, that require women to get sonograms of the fetus before getting an abortion, and a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, among others.

“Abortion patients and providers now face a dizzying array of medically unnecessary requirements that are difficult, time-consuming, and costly to navigate — sometimes prohibitively so,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs ask the Court to strike down Texas’ unduly burdensome abortion laws, returning the State to a regime of reasonable and medically appropriate abortion regulation.”

Attorneys for the state called the lawsuit “meritless and bordering on frivolous.”

In the past, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel has called his Austin courtroom a “whistlestop” for the “constant, never-ending stream” of abortion-related cases on the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And the stream is showing no sign of slowing down.

A bill for the legislative session has already been filed by Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, that would make it illegal for a Texas doctor to perform an abortion except to save a woman’s life, and there are several other proposed bills that would create various restrictions. If any of the bills are signed into law, they’re sure to face a legal challenge, sending the two sides back to to Yeakel’s courtroom.

“We know we’ll be fighting this again,” said Marsha Jones, the executive director for The Afiya Center, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “This case will still be going on a year from now, and there will probably be a new one too, just a different law with a different name affecting women’s reproductive healthcare. But we’ll still be here.”

The legal landscape for these cases has shifted following President Donald Trump’s appointment of conservative Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh replaced longtime swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, throwing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion, into question.

Despite the now conservative makeup of the Supreme Court, former state Sen. Wendy Davis said she didn’t anticipate a change in strategy on the part of abortion rights groups in the state. Davis drew national attention in 2013 for her 13-hour filibuster to block an anti-abortion bill in the Texas Legislature.

“I don’t think you can abandon one strategy for another,” Davis said. “That’s why we have three branches of government, and we have to rely on exercising tools and resources at our disposal in each of those realms. It would be foolish for us to look at the current makeup of the court and decide that we’re going to give up on that route because I believe that the law is on our side, and I’m reliant on a judiciary that’s going to uphold that.”

On the other side of the debate, Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, also said he doesn’t expect any Supreme Court reversals in the near future.

“Unfortunately, the case law is currently very bad and the precedent is very bad against the Texas Legislature for doing what we think is just a matter of justice,” Pojman said. “I’m very cautious, and I’m not foreseeing any earthquakes any time soon.”

If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned by the Supreme Court, conservative Texas Legislators heading into the session are going to be ready. Rep. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, filed a resolution that would amend the Texas Constitution to automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Source: https://www.chron.com/news/politics/texas/article/Abortion-rights-groups-make-their-case-against-13515595.php