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Twelve Things You Can Do To Help Increase Abortion Access

9:16 am in Government, Health care by RH Reality Check

Written by Frances Kissling for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The end of the year is a special time. Some of us make a slew of year-end contributions; others make New Year’s resolutions. We think back and we think forward. My thoughts as the year ends turn to the greatest challenge facing abortion-rights supporters: the absence of adequate federal, state and personal financial support for women who have chosen to have abortions and simply don’t have the money. I am struck by the almost absolute apathy of most of the movement when it comes to this pressing concern.

When we look back, we are critical of the movement of the mid-seventies which chose to focus its attention on rallying the troops about a less-than-real challenge to Roe’s constitutionality rather than on the first and most significant blow to Roe: the 1980 Harris v. McRae Supreme Court decision which ruled that neither the states nor the federal government were obliged to pay for abortions through various funding mechanisms.

Efforts to overturn the Hyde Amendment as well as state laws prohibiting the use of state money for abortions have consistently taken a back seat to efforts designed to secure adolescent access to abortion services and fight waiting periods, phony informed consent laws and restrictions on later term abortions and on specific types of medical procedures.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

An Anti-Choice Wishlist for the New Congress

10:39 am in Government, Health care, Legislature by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The anti-choice movement spent a great deal of time and money in campaigning for Republican candidates that would flip the leadership of the House from Democrat to Republican control in 2011.  Focusing primarily on the weakest candidates, anti-abortion Democrats running in conservative districts, groups like National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony list managed to create a new army of Republicans who owe their seats to the funding and backing of anti-choice activists.

Now those activists want their payback.

Via Lifenews, the anti-choice Republican groups have created a wishlist of the “top priorities” for congress once the new members are sworn in.  For the most part, the list is unsurprising — it is legislation that they have been pushing for nationally for years, and advocating for and often passing on a state by state basis.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Moving To The Right: Not An Effective Strategy

6:43 am in Government, Health care, Legislature by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

One of the occasional great joys of political prognosticating is the chance to go back over what you wrote and see how right or wrong you were, though it’s obviously more fun if you were right.  And on October 24th, I published a column where I argued that Republican candidates might find that being hard right on reproductive rights helps them win primaries, but can be devastating in the general election.

I’m happy to say that I was right.  Not every time–some of the most extreme anti-choice candidates did win–but many of the candidates who lost races that they were earlier predicted to win in a walk were candidates whose extreme views on abortion rights were well-publicized.  It wasn’t just Christine O’Donnell, either, though she was probably doomed from the moment it was exposed that her hostility to sexual freedom went beyond opposing rights that make women’s lives better right on to opposing masturbation, a popular activity among men, the ones who generally police and are not subject to the anti-sex police’s policing.  Anti-choice extremism wasn’t what you wanted on your side to beat the Democrats this election.

Sharron Angle, who was assumed over the summer to have an easy win against the unpopular Harry Reid in a state with nearly 15 percent unemployment, was beaten for a number of reasons involving her inability to stay quiet about extreme right wing views on everything from Medicare to gun control.  But her hostility to women who need abortions—even minors who are raped by family members—haunted her, particularly her quote about said victims trying to turn the “lemons” of rape into the supposed lemonade of bearing a child to give it away.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Choice ‘C-Streeter’ Opposing Pelosi for Minority Leader

7:04 am in Government, Health care, Legislature by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Remember the words, “Stupak Amendment?” Keep those in mind as you read further.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today announced that she would place herself in the running to become House minority leader when Congress reconvenes.

Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, was in large part responsible for ensuring the success of virtually every piece of legislation passed during the Obama Administration, including health care reform. Some bills that succeeded in the House failed in the Senate due to lack of effective action to pass them. Pelosi did not allow this to happen in the House while she held the gavel in her hand.

While clearly elements of some of these laws leave something to be desired–such as the ban on coverage for abortion care in private insurance policies–Pelosi’s ability to navigate and garner majority votes from an often fractious Democratic majority has won accolades even from opponents.

Pelosi also endured–seemingly without batting an eyelash–a flood of mean-spirited and sexist campaigns against her by both Republican and Tea Party actors seeking to vilify her through the use of imagery and strategies devised by people with the maturity level of sixth graders, and in what could only be described as a bid to distract from their own lack of ideas, lack of experience, lack of true leadership ability, or all of the above.

Pelosi, however, is being challenged by none other than Congressman Heath Shuler, a good ol’ boy conservative southern Blue Dog Democrat. Read more

PersonhoodUSA’s Radical, Fetal-Separatist Agenda

6:57 am in Government, Health care, Legislature, State Government by RH Reality Check

Written by Lynn Paltrow for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Next week, people in Colorado will be voting on Amendment 62, a ballot measure sponsored by PersonhoodUSA. This organization seeks to establish the “pre-born,” including eggs, embryos and fetuses as separate “legal persons with protection under the law.”

This organization claims that its goal is to end the “injustice of abortion.” In fact they are promoting a Fetal Separatist movement, one that is trying to legally separate pregnant women and the fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses inside of them. Their efforts are dangerous to all pregnant women including those who go to term, those who expect confidential medical care, and those who want to preserve their right to life and liberty.

The argument that eggs and fetuses may be treated as if they are legally independent of the women who carry them has been used to deprive pregnant women of their status as full constitutional persons.  Angela Carder was forced to have cesarean surgery to advance the rights of the fetus inside of her. Shortly after the surgery both the baby and Ms. Carder died. Ms. Carder was deprived of her right to life. Recently, a pregnant woman was kept prisoner in a Florida hospital because doctors believed that doing so would advance the rights and health of the fetus. She nevertheless suffered a stillbirth. Ms. Burton was deprived of her right to liberty. Although courts in both cases eventually held that these deprivations of life and liberty were wrong, adopting fetal separatist measures would allow outsiders to take similar actions whenever they disagreed with the pregnant woman.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Sen. Franken: Rape Victims Should Not Have To Pay for Their Own Rape Kits

8:17 am in Government, Legislature by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken has spent his time in office as a staunch advocate for women’s reproductive health.  In the fall of 2009, Sen. Franken sponsored an amendment to a defense bill that would have de-funded military contractors who prevent rape victims from seeking justice, based on the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, who was sexually attacked while working for KBR – a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Now, the Minnesota Democrat is once more taking up the cause for women who have been victims of sexual assault.  Last week, Sen. Franken spoke in front of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs about the backlog of rape kits going unaddressed in police storage, and the practice of making victims pay for their own forensic evidence.

The problem is that some jurisdictions are still billing victims for the rape kits, leaving it to the victims to get reimbursed by insurers or victims’ funds. And with that objection, Mr. Chairman, I would like to add to the record four articles…that document this."

To me, the real problem is that this practice is actually legal under federal law.  It is legal to bill a victim for her rape kit….Can you elaborate on this?  Is it a good idea to allow victims to be billed for their rape kits, even if they get fully reimbursed later?

Sen. Franken brings up an additional issue as to the billing of rape kits to victims, even if they are reimbursed by insurance: that an insurance claim being sent to someone’s home could violate her privacy by informing the family, spouse or other residents about the rape, something about which the victim may not have wanted them to be made aware.

Susan Carbon, the Director of the Office of Violence Against Women, responds to that problem as well as others rape kit issues in her own testimony.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

A Pioneering Effort to Increase Rural Women’s Access to Safe Abortion in Iowa

6:56 am in Government, Health care, State Government by RH Reality Check

Written by Kathleen Reeves for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

For the past two years, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been using video-conferencing and a remote-controlled drawer to dispense abortion pills to women seeking early abortions in Iowa clinics. Operation Rescue is taking aim at the practice, charging that because these medication abortions are not “performed by a physician,” they violate Iowa law.

This claim doesn’t stand up. True, medication abortion straddles the line between procedure and prescription: while the physician only acts insofar as giving a woman two pills, the more significant part of the procedure is the counseling that precedes it. But this is exactly the point: the medication abortion “procedure” requires the counsel and knowledge of a health care provider—and these days, we do not have to be physically present to share knowledge and expertise. The digital age has removed countless barriers to information, particularly geographic barriers. Why shouldn’t digital technology also remove barriers to health care? . . .

Read the rest of this entry →

Kagan and Reproductive Rights: No Time for Complacency

6:51 am in Health care, Judiciary by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

So far, the issue of reproductive rights hasn’t really been much of a factor in the discussion about Obama’s new nominee to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan.  For the most part, this is because the right is occupied with the game of trying to figure out how to call Kagan a lesbian without coming right out and saying it. Because it’s not on the table right now, it’s awfully tempting for pro-choice activists to assume that it may never really become an issue.  Perhaps the Obama administration’s decision to find a candidate with as obtuse a record on the issues as possible might be enough to keep the rabid dogs of the anti-choice movement out of this?

Don’t bet on it. When we relax our shoulders and start to believe that anti-choicers won’t be able to find an angle to make something All About Them, that’s when they strike.  They did it with the economic stimulus package, lashing out at funding for family planning services in an effort to kill the bill.  Pro-choice attempts to make health care reform abortion-neutral failed miserably, and anti-choicers were very close to killing health care reform entirely over abortion. And even if Elena Kagan never uttered the word “abortion” in her life, there’s a good chance that won’t stop them.  They’re very rarely bothered by reality, and in the absence of any evidence to support their views, will just make it up.

Of course, things are far more complicated because we really don’t have much evidence about Kagan’s beliefs about choice one way or another.  There’s been a memo where she urged then-President Clinton to support a late term abortion ban, but it appears that her motivation was to back a compromise that would prevent a more severe restriction down the road.  As it was, her prediction did play out—as soon as an anti-choice President was elected, he signed a serious federal restriction on late abortion—but it’s hard to imagine that a compromise bill passed earlier would have done much to stop the more severe restriction.  But the whole incident calls into question Kagan’s commitment to choice.  It’s hard to believe that President Obama would nominate someone without being assured of her commitment to abortion rights, but understandably, pro-choicers don’t want to take this on faith.

My sense is that Kagan is a purely political animal, who seems to value what’s popular over what’s right. Take this story, for example.  Kagan also urged President Clinton to support sentencing laws that treat the possession of crack cocaine as more serious than the possession of powder cocaine, even though it’s the same drug.  The only real difference between the drugs is a class difference, and the result of these sentencing laws is functionally racist.  There’s really no question that the sentencing laws are deeply unjust, but Kagan advised Clinton to support them anyway, because it sent the signal that the President is “tough on crime.”

The hope no doubt among progressives is that Kagan’s tendency to be a middle-of-the-road political animal will fall away when she’s ensconced in the lifetime position of Supreme Court justice.  But I’m skeptical.  Being a political animal is rarely a conscious choice, but more of a personality trait.  Odds are that Kagan’s behavior off the court will be a good predictor of her behavior on the court.  And her history inclines me to think she’ll be quite a bit like Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate who tended to value politically popular opinions over rigorously argued ones.  In his book "The Nine," Jeffrey Toobin explained that O’Connor had an uncanny ability to absorb the most politically centrist sentiment in the country and channel that into her decisions. Kagan is going in on a reputation as a great compromiser, a person who can bring disparate people together by appealing to common ground. 

On abortion rights, this tendency can be incredibly dangerous, even when a justice is technically pro-choice.  O’Connor, despite being pro-choice, struck an enormous blow to abortion rights when she wrote the majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.  The decision overturned the standard laid out in Roe v. Wade that made it difficult for state governments to restrict abortion, especially in the first trimester, and replaced it with a standard where states are allowed to regulate abortion as long as there was no “undue burden” on women seeking abortion.  From a legal perspective, the standard is hazy and ill thought out, but it was a politically popular one in a nation where most people support legal abortion but want it to be severely restricted.  Unfortunately, the decision opened a floodgate of absolutely undue burdens on abortion access, from parental notification and waiting periods to laws that exist mainly to harass providers.

Sadly, we saw this kind of thinking in the memo advising President Clinton to support a compromise bill restricting access to late term abortion.  One can be pro-choice and make decisions that are anti-choice under the misguided belief that compromises and common ground will placate anti-choicers.  I can’t imagine a scenario where passing a less restrictive abortion ban under a pro-choice President would suffice and thereby stop anti-choicers from trying to pass another more restrictive one as soon as they got an anti-choice President.  If anything, gaining victories under a pro-choice administration would probably embolden them to reach for more under an anti-choice administration.

Let’s hope Kagan proves me wrong once she passes confirmation, which she almost surely will.  It’s hard to imagine the court isn’t going to revisit the issue of abortion soon, with challenges to it rising up in states like Nebraska.  And as hard as it is to imagine that the restrictions on abortion could get any worse, the sad reality is they can.